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Submitted by 


In partial fulfillment of the requirements 

for the degree of 

Doctor of Philosophy 


May 19, 2010 


Lesley University 
Ph.D. in Expressive Therapies Program 


Student's Name: Yousef Al-Aiarma 

Dissertation Title: The Role of the Arts Toward ] Lealina Trauma and B uilding 
Resilience in the Palestinian Communi ty 

School: Lesley University. Graduate School of Arts & Social Sciences 

Degree for which Dissertation is submitted: Ph.D. in Expressive 

A pprovals 

In the judgment of the following signatories, this Dissertation meets the academic 
standards that have been established for the Doctor of Philosophy degree. 

Dissertation Committee Chair: 
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Dissertation Committee Member; 
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Dissertation Committee Member: 

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Directors? the Ph.D. Program: , , 

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Dean, Graduate School of Arts & Social Sciences: 

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This dissertation is dedicated to the following people: 

• The memory of my brother, Ali AlAjarma. 

• My parents, who have been my role-model for hard work, persistence and 
personal sacrifices, and who emphasized the importance of education, and who 
instilled in me the inspiration to set high goals and the confidence to achieve 

• My brothers and sisters who have been my emotional anchors through my entire 

• My wife, Nedaa Taweel, who has been proud and supportive of my work and who 
has shared the many uncertainties, challenges and sacrifices for completing this 

• To my daughter, Nour and to my son, Deyah. 

The Role of the Arts Toward Healing Trauma and Building Resilience 
in the Palestinian Community 

Yousef Al- Aj arma 

This study has investigated the sources of resilience in a sample of Palestinians 
who experienced the first Intifada and are now studying in the United States. The study 
found that family and community support, the pursuit of an education, and participation 
in artistic activities all contribute to individual resilience among Palestinians. In addition, 
political awareness and activity are another source of resilience, because they help 
individuals living under the Occupation to find meaning in their life and make sense of 
their struggles. 

Currently, young people in Palestine are at risk of developing psychological 
trauma from exposure to the violence of the second Intifada. Building resilience in 
children and youths can prevent them from falling victim to trauma. Expressive arts 
therapy is an effective tool in treating victims of psychological trauma, and it can help 
build resilience and protect individuals who may be vulnerable to trauma. 

Table of Contents 

Acknowledgments ii 

Chapter 1 Introduction 1 

Chapter 2 Literature Review 7 

Chapter 3 Methodology 5 1 

Chapter 4 Results 59 

Chapter 5 Discussion 112 

Appendix Consent Form 129 

References 130 


This dissertation provided an opportunity for enormous personal and professional growth. 
Though self-driven, and sometimes lonely, this process would never have even been 
possible without the generosity and help of many people along the way. First, I would 
like to thank the members of my dissertation committee, who dedicated several years of 
their time, energy and expertise to this project with a high level of enthusiasm that I can 
only wish to. I would like to express the deepest appreciation to my committee chair 
Professor Vivien Marcow-Speiser for her tremendous mentorship over the past six years. 
A model mentor who always puts her students first, Professor Marcow-Speiser provided 
precisely the right combination of encouragement and challenge to urge me on 
throughout this project. She continually set the bar for my work higher, and made me a 
better researcher as a result. 

I am deeply grateful and I would like to thank my committee members, Professor Susan 
Gere, Division Director of the Counseling and Psychology program at Lesley University 
and Professor Cynthia Cohen, executive director of the Slifka Program in Intercommunal 
Coexistence and director of Coexistence Research and International Collaborations at 
Brandeis University, who devoted much of their times to help and support me. I would 
like also to thank professor Michele Forinash, the Director of the Expressive Therapies 
Ph.D. Program at Lesley University for her encouragement and support. 

I would like to thank the faculty and staff of the Expressive Therapies Division for their 
continued support, inspiration and assistance. 

I would also like to thank my family and friends for their steadfast love and support 
throughout this process. There is not enough space to thank my wonderful parents for 
their unconditional love and acceptance, which they have shown me over the years, and 
for helping me to be resilient. Thanks also go to my brothers and sisters who have always 
been there for me. 

I would like to thank my colleagues and friends at Lesley University whose cheerleading 
has helped me get through these past few years, Michael Franklin, Sunhee Kim, Sangeeta 
Swamy, and Keren Barzilay-Shechter. 

One last person deserves her own paragraph. Over the past 10 years, my wife Nedaa 
Taweel, has stood by my side, providing a steady supply of encouragement, feedback, 
attention, endurance, caring, humor, understanding and love. It is no overstatement to say 
that without her, I could never have completed the project. For being there with me, and 
for putting up with untold weeks and months of seeing only the back of my head as I 
completed this dissertation, I cannot thank her enough. 

Chapter 1: Introduction 

For the past 61 years, the Palestinian and the Israeli people have been living in a 
contentious environment of unpredictability, instability, and animosity punctuated by 
periods of sporadic violence against each other. Amid the continuing violence between 
the two groups, many lives have been ruined, and families have been torn apart by death, 
deprivation, and incarceration within the Palestinian community. Many schools and 
educational institutions have been closed or destroyed, affecting the lives of three 
generations of Palestinians. 

Conflict between Zionist settlers and native Palestinians dates back to the 1920s, 
when Britain administered what was then Palestine, but the roots of the present situation 
lie in 1947. In that year, the United Nations proposed to replace the British Mandate with 
a partition plan that would create a Jewish state and an Arab state in Palestine. The Arabs 
rejected the plan, and the sporadic fighting between settlers and natives that began in late 
1947 turned to open warfare after the Jews founded the State of Israel in May 1948. By 
1949 the Israeli army controlled much of Palestine, with the exception of the West Bank, 
which became under Jordanian control. During the fighting, over 700,000 Palestinians 
left their homes and fled to neighboring countries, where they settled in refugee camps. 
Other displaced persons settled in refugee camps within Palestine, in the West Bank and 
the Gaza Strip. Palestinians remember this defeat and dispersion as an-Nakba, "the 

In 1967, the "Six-Day War" started between the Arab countries and Israel after 
the Israelis had expanded their territory to include the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, the 
Golan Heights, and the West Bank. Now the Arabs who had remained in Palestine were 
living under Israeli occupation. Over the next two decades, tension between Palestinians 
and Israelis continued to increase, especially as Israeli settlers began to encroach on West 
Bank territory. To combat the activity of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, the 
Israelis invaded Lebanon in 1982. The simmering tension within Palestine itself erupted 
in 1987 in the popular uprising known as the first Intifada. The uprising and violence 
continued until 1993 to end with the Oslo peace process. During that period, the subjects 
interviewed for this study were youths or adolescents. They grew up in towns or refugee 
camps in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, or Lebanon, as I did. 

The author of this study was born into a very large and poor family in a refugee 
camp near Bethlehem, Palestine. I have thirteen brothers and sisters; eight of them are 
older than me and five of them are younger than me. My father used to work as a 
construction worker inside Israel in order to help his family to survive. I do not remember 
having any toy or favorite hobby when I was a child. There was no place for imagination 
and dreams in my childhood. The prevailing idea was that, in order to live, you needed to 
live a serious life, which meant working and studying all of the time. When I was 6 years 
old, I started to work in a vegetable market from 4 to 8 p.m. every day. The money I 
earned— which was very little— I used to give to my father to use to buy food. When I 
was 13 years old, the first Intifada started, and I became active in fighting the 
Occupation, as a way of resistance. As a result of that fighting, I was held in an Israeli 
prison for two years. During that two years the only thing that helped me to survive and 

overcome my suffering was using my imagination and making art. I carved stones and 
olive pits to make art pieces out of them. I also used to write poems as a way of 
expressing my feelings and emotions. I used to make picture frames from empty 
toothpaste tubes and then draw and write on them. All of this helped me to survive and to 
feel that my life had meaning. 

When I got out of prison, I decided that I wanted to shape my life in a new way, 
through education. I wanted to become more resilient in order to survive and continue my 
education. As a teenager, the arts helped me to transform all of my negative feelings 
toward the Occupation in a positive way. I decided to learn about and to use higher 
education to help other teenagers to find a way to express their anger and frustration 
through the use of the arts. I believe that the arts can help people to feel the pathos and 
waste of war, and they can also instill a desire and commitment to end war and work 
towards peace. In 1998, after I received my undergraduate degree, I worked as a therapist 
with Palestinian prisoners who had spent many years in Israeli prisons. I found that the 
most effective approach in therapy was the use of the arts. Therapy helped the ex- 
prisoners to express their emotions as well as to help them think about and plan for their 
futures. I believe that when you start to imagine, plan, and think about the future, the 
future becomes manifest. 

In 2002, Israeli forces invaded the West Bank. The invasion took place in the 
cities, villages, and camps of the West Bank and lasted for two weeks, where all of the 
West Bank was placed under curfew. During the invasion, no one was allowed to leave 
their houses to buy food or even to get medical help. Children, teenagers, and adults were 
forced to stay inside their houses. In addition, most houses were attacked and searched by 

Israeli solders. Much psychological trauma resulted from exposure to shelling, while 
shootings, and beatings led to injuries, disabilities, and loss of life. 

After the Israeli invasion was over, many therapists came together to think about 
the best ways to help traumatized children and adults. The children suffered from many 
problems, such as bed-wetting, difficulties in breathing, rapid heart rate, headaches, poor 
attention span, nightmares, anxiety, fear, and the inability to rest. As therapists, we 
thought a lot about the best way to work with these children and we found that the 
expressive arts therapies are the best choice. We started to build two large therapy groups 
using the arts. We used drawing and creative activities. We observed the behaviors and 
actions of the children. We found the children to be isolated, depressed, aggressive, and 
afraid. The goal of our intervention was to release their psychological stress, as well as to 
provide them with new techniques that would help them to face their traumas and stress. 
We wanted to help those kids and their families to imagine how they would want to 
continue living after recovering from their trauma; we also wanted to help them to 
achieve an inner peace, by allowing them to express all of their feelings. 

In 2004 1 received a Ph.D. scholarship from the Ford Foundation, which allowed 
me to travel to Lesley University to complete my Ph.D. studies. My intention in this 
study is to find ways in which the arts can help Palestinians to heal and to build 
resiliency. I looked back on the 30 years I lived in Palestine and thought about my own 
resilience and about the reasons that I want to continue my education. I researched the 
literature but I did not find much that was written about resilience and the arts in the 
Palestinian context. On the other hand, I found numerous studies about the resilience of 
Holocaust survivors, the resilience of Israelis, and the resilience of people in areas of 

conflict around the world. It was clear that further studies of resilience among 
Palestinians were necessary. 

In order to learn more about the role of the arts in building resilience among 
Palestinians, I decided to devote my dissertation to exploring this issue and to contribute 
to the literature on resilience, trauma, and the arts in the Palestinian context. I conducted 
seven interviews with seven Palestinian graduate students attending U.S. universities. 
Their ages range from 3CM-0 years old. During the interviews I asked the participants to 
tell their life story. 

The aim of this dissertation is to advance the promising field of the relationship 
between the Expressive Arts and resilience. Specifically, I intend to examine a three 
question: What are the sources of resilience for Palestinians. What role do the arts play in 
building resilience for individuals in societies experiencing violent conflict, especially 
among Palestinians. And what is the role of family, community, and education in 
building resilience in the Palestinian community 

This dissertation is divided into five chapters, including this introduction (chapter 
1). Chapter 2 contains the literature review, and it focuses on several topics: the 
background to the Middle East conflict, with a focus on the second Intifada and its impact 
on Palestinian society; trauma and PTSD; healing trauma, and the use of the expressive 
arts; and sources of resilience for Palestinians, education, family and community support, 
sports, and religion. Chapter 3 describes the methodology that I used, the Interview 
process, sampling, and analysis of the data. Chapter 4 presents the results of the 
interviews. Chapter 5 discusses the results of the interviews with respect to the literature 

on resilience. The chapter also notes some limitations of this study and offers 
recommendations for future research. 

Chapter 2: Literature Review 


This literature review begins with a background discussion on the Middle East 
conflict, with a focus on the second Intifada. It also examines the social and family 
structure of the Palestinian community in the West Bank and the connection between 
activism, gender roles, and the social structure. The impact of the Israeli occupation on 
Palestinian society is explored, and political trauma is explored from both a social and 
Palestinian context. Lastly, the literature on trauma is reviewed, with an emphasis on 
using the Expressive Therapies to heal trauma. 

Background to the Middle East Conflict, with a Focus on the Second Intifada 

Much has been written about the Middle East crisis in the context of history, 
culture, and the political and religious environment. For the past 61 years, the Palestinian 
and the Israeli people have been living in a contentious environment of unpredictability, 
instability, and animosity punctuated by periods of sporadic violence against each other. 
Amid the continuing violence between the two groups, Ariel Sharon, prior to his election 
as Israeli Prime Minister, visited the al-Aqsa Mosque in 2000 and declared that the 
Temple Mount complex, where the mosque is located, would remain under the perpetual 
control of Israel (Al-Krenawi, Graham, & Sehwail, 2004). 

According to Ron (2001), Sharon's visit further stirred up the already volatile 
situation in the region. Palestinians viewed Sharon's visit as a deliberate attempt to 
inflame their passions, and it did indeed provoke a violent reaction. For a span of five 
years, the Palestinians and the Israelis engaged in intermittent violence. As Israel 
militarily counteracted the second Intifada, a term used to reference the Palestinian 
uprising against the Israeli occupation, the people of Palestine suffered oppression at the 
hands of the Israeli state and military (Hammami & Hilal, 2001). The Gaza Strip and the 
West Bank continue to be occupied and are under strict Israeli military control. Tanks, F- 
16s, Apache helicopters, and other weapons of the Israeli defense forces (Foreign Report, 
2002) were conspicuous by their presence and use. Infrastructure and buildings in the 
cities of Bethlehem, Jenin, Nablus, and Ramallah were ravaged. 

When discussing the ongoing conflict, it is important to relate it to the current 
political situation in the region and the system of governance in Palestine. In September 
1993, Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) signed the Principles on 
Interim Self-Governance Arrangements (also known as the DOP, Declaration of 
Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements), which gave the Palestinians a 
maximum transition time of five years. In this time period, the Palestinians would be 
allowed to form a transitional government in Gaza and the West Bank. The new 
Palestinian authority would be allowed to elect a Palestinian legislation council as part of 
this government (CIA, 2002). The promises of the DOP to the people of Palestine have 
yet to be completely fulfilled. More than a decade after the adoption of the DOP 
agreement, the majority of the people of Palestine remain under the control of the Israeli 
government and military. 

The Social and Family Structure of the Palestinian Community in the West Bank 

The West Bank is a small strip of land between Israel and Jordan, inhabited by 
approximately 2.8 million people — 2.4 million Palestinians, over 400,000 Israeli settlers, 
and several ethnic groups living in and around Nablus. To the southeast of the West Bank 
lies Gaza, a narrow strip of land on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea with an 
area of 365 square kilometers. It is one of the most densely populated areas of the world, 
with a population of over a million people. The West Bank and Gaza together constitute 
what are understood to be the parts of Palestine. 

The social structure of the Palestinians emphasizes the collective over the 
individual. It is characterized by a slower pace of societal change and a higher sense of 
social stability, with the family as its most significant element (Al-Krenawi et al., 2004). 
As in other Arab communities, the Palestinian family is patrilineal, patrilocal, and 
patriarchal, with separate spheres for men and women (Fronk, Huntington, & Chadwick, 
1999). The Palestinians' high regard for family breeds strong family bonds, social 
identity from a familial and community perspective, and a holistic mentality (Abi- 
Hashem, 1992). 

For the Palestinians, family is the most important element of culture and society 
(Dwairy & Van Sickle, 1996). In fact, family connections play a significant role in 
determining an individual's influence, power, position, and security. Traditionally, a 
Palestinian family is headed by the father, with the mother playing a central role in the 
decision-making process as it applies to all aspects of their married life. A study by Sagy, 


Orr, Bar-On, & Awwad (2001) shows that Palestinians have higher in-group collective 
orientation values in comparison to the Jewish Israelis. This strong bond of closeness and 
identity sustains the unity and cohesion among the Palestinian people in times of crisis. 
Their political experiences and struggle for autonomy further strengthen this tie. 
According to Neumann (1992), the absence of political autonomy interferes with 
"ordinary processes [that] individuals and societies need to establish a positively valued 
distinctiveness from other groups, in order to provide members with a positive identity" 
(p. 221). 

Ultimately, the lack of political autonomy reinforces the cohesion among 
Palestinians, encouraging them to take active participation in their struggle for autonomy. 
For the Palestinians, the West Bank is consider a part of their sovereign nation, and they 
view the presence of Israeli military control as a violation of their right to self- 
determination (Jean-Klein, 2003). According to social scientists, it is the absence of 
autonomy that makes the Palestinians commit Intifada, or "uprising," against the Israelis 
(Al-Krenawi et al., 2004). The first Intifada began in 1987 and was ended through the 
Oslo accords in 1993, which led to the establishment of the Palestinian National 
Authority. By the turn of the new millennium, the second wave of Intifada started as a 
result of Sharon's visit to Al-Aqsa Mosque and his declaration that the site of the mosque 
would perpetually belong to Israel. The Palestinian people have yet to call off the 
Intifada, and it may continue as long as the Palestinians are not granted political 
autonomy by the Israelis (Al-Krenawi et al., 2004). As long as the people of Palestine 
perceive the presence of the Israeli military forces in the West Bank and in Gaza Strip as 
a violation of their autonomy, Intifada will continue (Al-Krenawi et al., 2004). 


The Connection between Activism, Gender Roles, and Social Structure 

For the Palestinians, Intifada is necessary to reclaim their freedom. They 
view the Intifada as an uprising against the Israeli occupation. They believe that it 
is their duty to protect their people and their nation. Al-Krenawi et al. (2004) note 
that during the first Intifada (1987-1990), both males and females became more 
politically active. Moreover, the people involved tended to be mature and had a 
strong sense of identity and they were involved in the struggle for the freedom of 
their people and not for antisocial reasons. 

More importantly, the first Intifada marked the expansion of women's social 
movements dedicated to the dual purposes of gaining national liberation and improving 
their gender status (Hasso, 1995). Among youth, girls expressed more liberal attitudes 
toward women's roles and participation in society, while at the same time supporting 
traditional family functions (Fronk et al., 1999). Barber (1999) notes that the Intifada 
experiences gave rise to increased parental use of psychological control and conflict with 
daughters, but were unrelated to parental support, monitoring, or conflict with sons. 

The Impact of the Israeli Occupation on Palestinian Society 

With the continuing violence and the Israeli occupation of the Gaza strip and the 
West Bank, the people of Palestine experienced economic deprivation, suppression of 
political rights, and continuous psychological stress and social dislocation (Al-Krenawi et 


al., 2004). Reports from the World Bank and the United Nations show that since 
September 2000, the Palestinian economy has lost $5.4 billion in gross income — the 
equivalent of the region's total income for 1999. Consequently, poverty rose from 25 to 
60 percent and unemployment rates from 23 to 45 percent. The report points to the Israeli 
policies of imposing curfews and closing borders to the movement of Palestinian goods 
and people as major causal factors in Palestine's economic problems {Atlantic, 2003, p. 
34; United Nations, Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator, 2002; World 
Bank, 2003). 

Aside from the economic consequences of the ongoing violence on both sides, the 
social mobility of the Palestinians is affected as curfews imposed by the Israelis restrict 
their spatial mobility, access to employment, and availability of supplies (Al-Krenawi et 
al., 2004). Gina Ross (2005) considers that the violence in the region, particularly the 
Shatilla massacre, has dashed the hopes and hurt the pride of the Palestinian people. Ross 
makes the following seven points to underscore the traumatic experiences of the 

First, since Palestinians' livelihood has been at the mercy of a political process 
over which they have hardly any influence, they feel repressed and oppressed and feel the 
burden of being dominated and treated as second-class citizens in their own nation. 
Second, since the Israeli occupation, the people of Palestine have lost their homes and 
their land. An entire generation has lived in waiting and without hope. Above all, they 
feel they have done nothing to deserve what has happened to them: they were not 
responsible for the Jewish Holocaust, and they were not responsible for the exile of the 
Jews from their land 2,000 years ago. Third, Palestinian economic infrastructural 


development has been stunted by the Arab world and neglected by the Israelis and the 
rest of the international community . Ross's fourth point is that Palestinians feel a sense 
of betrayal by their own leaders, who sowed the seeds of hope and made impossible 
promises. Many of their children have been reared in poverty and schooled in revolution 
and hatred. Fifth, there is mounting anger and frustration among the Palestinians because 
of the expansion of Jewish settlements, border closures, rough searches by Israeli soldiers 
at roadblocks, and late-night raids on their homes by Israeli "special units." Sixth, 
Palestinians have not been encouraged by the United Nations to make concessions, which 
in turn has failed to assuage the mistrust of the Israelis. Moreover, they have not been 
supported by the other Arab countries in making the concessions that would help them 
attain autonomy. Finally, Palestinians have missed many opportunities to embrace peace, 
which has consequently cost them thousands of lives and caused poverty, bitterness, and 
hopelessness, while deferring their ultimate objective of independence (Ross, 2005). 

According to Al-Krenawi et al. (2004) the impact of the political violence among 
the Palestinians is all-encompassing, significantly affecting individual, familial, and 
community functioning. Focusing on the destruction of the home as the result of the 
political violence, they illustrate the psychological effects of the violence on every 
individual. Palestinians associate home as a place of refuge that provides a feeling of 
belonging, and as a source of strength that nurtures personal relationships and 
approximates family ethos (Despres, 1991; Rybczynski, 1987). With the loss of home, all 
these feelings of emotional security cultivated by a sense of familiarity and routine 
(Saunders & Williams, 1991; Sixsmith, 1986) are shattered. Moreover, the destruction of 
the home and changes in household composition through death and disability resulting 


from the political violence represents the destruction of the familial dreams. Al-Krenawi 
et al. (2004) add that the loss of home implies from the loss of parental protection for the 
children, compromising their sense of well-being. Similarly, parents feel that their roles 
as protectors have been impaired. More importantly, Palestinians view the loss of home 
as the destruction of history, culture, the sense of belonging to a nation, and the political 
right and freedom to exist as a nation (Al-Krenawi et al., 2004). 

Political Trauma in a Social Context 

Earlier studies conducted by Abu Sway et al. (2005) studied the trauma caused by 
political violence in Palestine by examining the use of expressive therapy to heal trauma. 
Khamis (2004, 2005), Al-Krenawi et al. (2004), Punamaki et al. (2005), and Awwad 
(2004) examined the effects of trauma related to the Intifada, including post-traumatic 
stress disorder (PTSD) among Palestinian children, adults, and families; gender-specific 
trauma exposure and mental health symptoms among Palestinians living in conditions of 
military violence; and the prevalence of PTSD among Palestinian school-age children. 
Variables that distinguish PTSD and non-PTSD children were examined, including child 
characteristics, socioeconomic status, family environment, and parental style of 
influence; case studies and interviews with traumatized Palestinian people were also 

In their study, Punamaki et al. (2004) find "no gender differences in peritraumatic 
dissociation during the most severe trauma. Peritraumatic dissociation was positively 
associated with posttraumatic symptoms." The results of their study reveal only the 


negative function of peritraumatic dissociation among both men and women, indicating 
that "lifetime trauma was associated with a relatively higher level of hostility if persons 
reported a high level of peritraumatic dissociation during the most severe trauma." King 
(1998) explains the peritraumatic dissociation between males and females as a result of 
Middle Eastern culture and politics, where male heroism and sacrifice is highly 
appreciated. Punamaki posits that dissociative responses apparently connote loss of 
control, shame, weakness, and subsequent low self-esteem, all promoting depressiveness. 
Among women, dissociative and uncontrollable responses in a trauma scene are more 
easily accepted, especially in a culture that encourages strong and visual female 
emotional expression, for example, at funerals and other good-byes (Punamaki et al., 

Other aspects of political violence have also been the subject of various research 
studies, such as the effects of trauma related to the Palestinian Intifada, including the 
phenomenon of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among children. Qouta (2001, 
1997), Punamaki (2001), Thabet and Vostanis (1999), and Mandour and Hourani (1989) 
write about working with Palestinian children who suffer depression in reaction to 
trauma. Other scholars, such as Kanninen et al. (2000) and Soloman (1996), discuss 
working with adults and families, including looking at attachment patterns and the 
working alliance in trauma therapy, as well as the implications for communities 
experiencing trauma. Awwad (1999) and Qouta (1997) examine the experiences of 
anxiety, depression, and paranoid symptoms associated with house demolition. Thabet 
(2005), Quota (2005), and Baker and Kevorkian (1999) write about group crisis 
intervention for children during ongoing war/conflict, mother-child expression of 


psychological distress in war trauma, and the effects of political and military traumas on 
children, as in the Palestinian case. 

At the same time, Qouta et al. (1997), Punamaki et al. (2001), Thabet and 
Vostanis (1999), and Mandour and Hourani (1989) have studied the effects of political 
violence among children and have prescribed ways to work with Palestinian children 
suffering from depression that results from the conflict. Al-Krenawi et al. (2004) 
conclude that apart from inflicting wounds, political conflicts inscribe themselves on the 
memories of individuals, families, and communities long after the occurrence of the 
traumatic events. As Humphrey (2000, p. 7) says, the damage to property and persons is 
often used to "substantiate social reality, beliefs, values, knowledge and social identity." 
War is not only personal and familial, but also cultural. Clearly, the loss of home and life 
and the ongoing political violence in the region have deeply affected every individual and 
the whole community. Every day the Palestinian people face life with the threat of 
violence, of loss of life or physical disability, loss of property, loss of home, and loss of 
identity as an individual and as a part of the Palestinian community. Living under this 
constant threat of violence has affected every single individual in the community. For 
some, the experience has become traumatic. 


The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines trauma in two ways: (1) an 
injury or a wound to living tissue caused by an extrinsic agent; (2) a disordered psychic 
or behavioral state resulting from severe mental or emotional stress or physical injury. 


Herman (1997) proposes the same set of definitions: medical and psychiatric. Taken as a 
medical term, trauma refers to serious or critical bodily injury, wound, or shock. 
Psychiatrically, trauma refers to experiences that are emotionally painful, stressful or 
shocking, and which often result in lasting mental and physical effects (Punamaki et al., 

Researchers assert that trauma occurs because victims are unable to escape from 
traumatic experiences. According to Herman (1997) traumatic events overwhelm the 
ordinary coping mechanisms of an individual. Generally, traumatic experiences involve 
threats to life or a close encounter with violence and death. For children, trauma is a 
sudden and threatening event, disturbing their basic assumption that the world is a safe 
and controllable place. For adults, trauma comes in life-threatening situations that result 
in fear, anxiety, and a sense of helplessness and vulnerability, along with feelings of 
profound grief, sadness, and anger. 

Bradshaw and Thomlison (1999) reports that individuals' reactions to stress and 
its subsequent psychological effects are multifaceted and diverse; children and adults 
commonly report symptoms such as depression, anxiety, somatic complaints, 
dissociation, and global psychological distress. However, studies by Hubbard et al. 
(1995) and Holtman (2006) stress that trauma has become part of a current shared 
cultural experience characterized by a general awareness of potential threats brought 
forth by natural disasters and human activities. 

Types of Trauma and PTSD 

There are two types of trauma: acute and chronic. Acute trauma refers to short, 
severe, and isolated incidents caused by natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, fires, 
tsunamis, and earthquakes, as well as medical trauma such as motor vehicle accidents, 
physical assaults, falls, burns, and hospitalization (Holtman, 2006). On the other hand, 
chronic trauma is the effect of repeated, anticipated trauma resulting from persistent 
exposure to repeated physical and sexual abuse, ongoing neglect, combat, and violence 
(Holtman, 2006). 

Chronic trauma is much more likely to generate symptoms of post-traumatic 
stress disorder (PTSD) than acute trauma. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) 
(2000) defines PTSD as a condition that can occur in individuals after a prolonged 
exposure to severe trauma, such as experiencing, witnessing, or being confronted with an 
event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the 
physical integrity of self or others. Parry- Jones (1997, cited in Young 2001) says that 
PTSD is the consequence of an interaction between the stressor (which varies according 
to the nature of the stressor and the amount of exposure to it), personality (coping styles, 
preexisting belief systems, attributional style), and the recovery environment, contingent 
upon the availability of social support. 

The APA (2000) identifies the common responses of persons suffering from 
PTSD as intense fear, helplessness, horror, and reliving of the experience (flashbacks); 
intense distress when exposed to reminders of the event; feelings of detachment 
(emotional numbing), amnesia, or restricted affect; active avoidance of thoughts or 


activities that may be reminders of the trauma; poor concentration, vigilance, an 
exaggerated startle response, insomnia, and irritability, among other symptoms. 
According to Breslau (2002) PTSD often compels victims to re-experience the traumatic 
incident through intrusive thoughts and dreams, avoidance of stimuli that symbolize the 
event, numbing of general responsiveness, and heightened vigilance. 

Although not everyone who is exposed to a prolonged severe traumatic incident 
develops PTSD symptoms, longitudinal research with Palestinian children indicates that 
most of them are perceived to have general mental health problems (Thabet & Vostanis, 
2000). Studies by Miller (1999) and others reported a high prevalence of post-traumatic 
stress disorder (PTSD), conduct disorder, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder in 
children in Gaza, relative to children in a region without conflict (1999). Another study 
(Thabet et al., 2002) reveals that children living in war zones are at high risk of 
developing post-traumatic stress and other emotional disorders. A study of Vivian 
Khamis (2005) on "Post-traumatic stress disorder among school age Palestinian children" 
shows that "A substantial number of children experienced at least one lifetime trauma 
(54.7%). Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was diagnosed in 34.1% of the children, 
most of whom were refugees, males, and working. Although the expected association 
between family environment, parental style of influence, and PTSD symptomatology was 
found in this study, family ambiance (child's experience of anxiety in home environment) 
was the only predictor in the final model" (p. 81). 

Physiological-Somatic Symptoms of PTSD 

According to the APA (2000), the impact of trauma on individuals is manifested 
in physical or somatic symptoms that occur in the absence of organic findings. Van der 
Kolk (1987) characterized this as the dislocation of unpleasant sensations in the body to 
control disruptive thoughts and emotions. Researchers say that nausea, sleep deprivation, 
skin problems, cramps or vomiting, and physical pain can be triggered by the profound 
physiological and neurochemical changes in the brain caused by prolonged anxiety and 
stress. Children and adolescents surviving a life-threatening disaster show a wide range 
of symptoms, which tend to cluster around signs of re-experiencing the traumatic event, 
avoidance of arising emotions, and a range of signs of increased physiological arousal. 
Starting almost immediately, most traumatized persons are troubled by repetitive, 
intrusive thoughts about the accident. In a flashback, the person reports that he or she is 
re-experiencing the event, as if it were happening all over again (Yule, 2001). Adults also 
get caught in the vicious cycle of fear and anxiety. 

Palestinian children who are constantly exposed to violence report having sleep 
disturbances, fear of the dark, bad dreams, and waking through the night. Also, they 
report having difficulties in schoolwork due to difficulties in concentration and memory 
problems (Al-Krenawi et al., 2004). Errante (1997) proposes that the distressing 
memories and anxiety over the possibility of danger for self and family interfere with the 
individual's ability to concentrate, thus impeding the individual's learning and 


Al-Krenawi et al. (2004) report that many of the Palestinian family members from 
all four cases they have studied demonstrate symptoms of PTSD such as incidences of 
shock, anxiety, and depression. According to van der Kolk (2002), many individuals 
experience confusion, withdrawal, or shock when they are faced with an ominous threat. 
This "shock," aspect, including such symptoms as shaking and disorientation, has long 
been recognized by the medical community as related to psychological trauma. 

People exposed to traumatic events and experiences develop a sense of 
detachment, intense emotional reactions, intrusive and repetitive thoughts and images, 
memory gaps, and heightened startle responses (Al-Krenawi et al., 2004). Palestinians 
who experienced traumas within their family often had difficulty accepting reality, while 
at the same time they were anxious that traumatic events could happen again 

Another symptom of trauma is anxiety. Bradshaw and Thomlison (1999) state that 
traumatic events perpetuate feelings of anxiety, fear, and helplessness. Perry (1996) 
explains that the persistence of anxiety stems from the constant state of hyper-arousal of 
the autonomic nervous system due to an individual's prolonged fear, characterized by 
unpredictability and danger. Al-Krenawi et al. (2004) reiterate that although this 
heightened state of awareness may be beneficial during the time of danger, it does not 
help when the environment changes. They argue that as children's brains are developing, 
they are most susceptible to the development of hyper- vigilance, and become focused on 
nonverbal cues related to the threat. 


Loss and Trauma 

In their study, Al-Krenawi et al. (2004) focus on four areas of analysis. The first 

area is the nature of the loss, which may include the loss of life, family members, 
economic means, home and property, stability, cohesion, or harmony. Loss is both an 
individual and community phenomenon where the personal and political intersect. Losses 
occur as death, as impaired health, and as a loss of people who fulfilled social roles as 
family and community members. They have direct, experiential impact in these respects. 
The loss of an individual becomes that of the family. Moving to the immediate and 
individual level: loss, particularly if it is associated with trauma, may be experienced as a 
process of negotiation, as people attend to the normal aspects of everyday life and the 
threatening aspects of trauma (Al-Krenawi et al., 2004). 

Losses can result in various emotions and cognitive structuring. For the 
Palestinians, dealing with and accepting of loss is determined by the family's religious 
affinity and background. According to Al-Krenawi et al. (2004), "the experience of loss 
is strongly mediated by Islam." There are several terms that Muslims use when dealing 
with loss. Some believe that a person has an "Amanat" (deposit) in this world. When God 
wants to take His deposit, there is no reason to be angered, for Muslims have to accept 
God's order (Al-Krenawi, 1996). The related concept of "Al-Gadhar," or fate, is also a 
common theme. Two closely linked expressions are "Hakmat Allah" (God's judgment), 
and "Maktoub" (it is written). The belief in fate is a core part of Islam: all things that 
happen to a person, both good and evil, are thought to be the will of God (Wikan, 1988). 
People are encouraged to accept their fate with strong faith, courage, and great patience 
(Al-Krenawi, 1996; Al-Krenawi & Graham, 1997). Absolute submission to the will of 


God has the corollary that all things that happen in one's life must be accepted with 
fortitude. Also, in grief, as in other parts of life, self-reliance is considered a central 
Muslim virtue (Wikan, 1988). As one scholar points out, "to express anger and bitterness, 
like suffering and grief, is regarded as essential" to the grieving process. "Indeed, these 
feelings are not usually distinguished but all entailed in the concept of 'za'l.' " 
"Unhappiness," many Muslims believe, "must find a way out of the body, or it weighs 
upon the nafs (soul) to occasional mental illness or chronically tired nerves" (Wikan, 
1988, p. 458). 

The second area of analysis in the study of Al-Krenawi et al. (2004) is the 
psychological impact of trauma upon individuals, encompassing somatic symptoms, post- 
traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), depression, and other forms of psychological distress. 
Al-Krenawi et al. (2004) assert that the political violence in the region exposes the people 
of Palestine to traumatic situations and experiences that result in various psychosomatic 
behavior and emotions. 

The third area is the impact of traumatic experiences upon the function of the 
family and community in terms of communication, social roles, and functions. One of the 
consequences of socioeconomic changes within these families is the disruption of daily 
routines through which individuals and families derive a sense of identity and purpose, 
satisfaction, and well-being (Errante, 1997). The disruption of these routines may be one 
way that the perception of self, family, and community shifts (Al-Krenawi et al., 2004). 
Furthermore, Al-Krenawi et al. (2004) report that the traumatic experiences caused by the 
political violence among the Israelis and the Palestinians affect not only the individual 
but the whole community. The loss suffered by the Palestinians affects their families and 


communities. Every member of the family is affected by the loss of a home or a member. 
Consequently, the community is affected as well as social situations change. People are 
losing their homes, their families, and their jobs. All of these aspects affect the functions 
of society. One of the functions of the broader community is to provide a sense of 
coherence and stability that communities communicate in formal and informal ways 
(Ayalon, 1998). This is important for adults and children alike, but it is especially true for 
children who rely on a sense of routine and familiarity to develop their unique sense of 
self (Ayalon, 1998). 

Ross (2005) asserts that unless the political crisis in the region is addressed, 
political violence will continue, and people will remain exposed to life-threatening 
traumatic experiences. Unresolved trauma becomes mobilized and non-discharged energy 
exists in the body. This phenomenon is compounded when events occur that rekindle any 
past unresolved trauma and reopen a flood of memories of every past injury, insult, 
humiliation, loss, fear, and hatred. There is a hyper-vigilant search for threats and a sense 
of ongoing danger that sets the stage for violent reenactments, combined with a 
psychological hope to finally master the deeply wounded and traumatized feelings. There 
is a polarization of beliefs, principles, and feelings; intolerance and revenge seem the 
only viable responses (Ross, 2005). 

Impact of Political Trauma 

Traumatic experiences can have a great impact on relations between family 
members and the family's interactions with the surrounding community. Researchers 


agree that trauma affects people's lives: "there is a high correlation between life stressors 
and a prevalence of psychological problems in a community" (Abu Sway et al., 2005, p. 
157). "It is common knowledge that 30% of any community directly living in a conflict 
area or war zone is affected psychologically on a long-term basis" (University of Iowa, 
2001). Van der Kolk (1987) warns that traumatic life experiences may overwhelm an 
individual's biological and psychological coping mechanisms, resulting in psychological 
trauma. As political violence often causes the loss of home and family members, the 
surviving family member has to endure without the support of other family members. 
Miller (1999) says that the prevailing animosity and violence in the environment block 
the emotional nourishment that the family acquires from the community; without the 
support, stability, and protection of the community, the family may be unable to 
adequately provide the safety, affection, and education that its members require (Al- 
Krenawi et al., 2004). 

The study of Al-Krenawi et al. (2004) indicates that "parental responsiveness has 
been impacted in one way or another. . . as adults have to deal with serious psychological 
and economic impacts of the traumas experienced." Thus, they tend to spend more time, 
attention, and energy in addressing their economic predicament. However, the need for 
support and attention is heightened for the children in the midst of violence and traumatic 
incidents. Perry (2003) suggests that exposure to violence can lead to serious chronic 
impairment of brain development, especially among children. This is because when an 
individual is in danger, the body initiates chemical responses in the brain. 

Basically, there are two primary adaptive response patterns to danger: the "flight- 
fight" (hyper-arousal) and the "freeze-surrender" (dissociation) continuums. Each of 


these responses triggers a unique combination of neural systems. Perry (2003) explains 
that if either response is persistent, alterations in the key neural systems involved in the 
stress response may take place. As a result, this chronic activation of stress responses 
may in effect "wear out" parts of the body involved in memory, cognition, attention, 
impulse control, fine motor control and other functions (Perry, 2003). 

Psychologically, traumatic experiences can lead to distrust and aggression, thus 
preventing the child from becoming a productive citizen. Economically, as armed conflict 
results in dislocation and unemployment, children may have to adjust to changes in the 
socioeconomic situation. The study of Al-Krenawi et al. (2004) indicates that changes in 
socioeconomic environment such as death, disability, loss of home, threatened family 
stability, and unemployment worsen the psychological effects of traumatic events to 
children. According to Errante (1997) socioeconomic changes caused by armed conflict 
disrupt the daily routines through which members of the family and society derive their 
sense of identity and purpose, satisfaction, and well-being. Routines and familiarity are 
necessary so that the family and community will be able to provide its members a sense 
of belonging and of oneness (Ayalon, 1998). 

The study by Conway (1992), which deals with the impact of war and other 
traumatic events on the development of children, proposes that for children to develop 
"good psychological health," their basic needs must be met. Also, Conway (1992) 
reiterates that children who experience war and conflict usually develop the need for 
understanding, emotional resolution, security, and a sense of belonging and self- worth. 
Hence, parental and family support play a significant role in mediating the maladaptive 
and adaptive outcomes in children (Dubrow & Garbarino, 1989; Straker et al., 1992). 


According to Rutter (1985), the resilience of children in facing the stress caused 
by traumatic events depends on protective factors, such as the presence of a well- 
functioning caregiver who provides effective emotional support (Dawes and Tredoux, 
1989). This is supported by the findings of the study of Lifschitz (1977, cited in Jensen 
and Shaw, 1993) showing that children who have an affectionate relationship with their 
mothers adjusted better to family loss. Indeed, the impact of war-related traumas is felt 
not only at the individual level of functioning but within the family as a whole. Whether 
trauma affects a whole family or a single member, the entire family endures the traumatic 
aftermath, and often the primary parenting functions of protecting, loving, and teaching 
become disturbed (Miller, 1999). 

Healing Trauma 

Treating PTSD 

Herman (1997) describes the three steps to healing from PTSD as safety, 
remembrance and mourning, and reconnection. The first stage of healing involves safety. 
Rayner (2005) says that "psychological trauma takes away control from the victim — it is 
the lack of control that leads to someone being unable to escape from a traumatic 
situation." When the victims feel security, safety, and stability within the community, 
then the healing process begins. The second stage involves the remembrance and 
mourning of the traumatic event. Normally, victims of traumatic events try to cope by 
banishing the experience from consciousness. The findings of Punamaki et al. (2004) 
show that "there is ample evidence that trauma victims tend to distort, narrow, and 


repress their memories of painful and often shameful scenes." However, Herman (1997) 
says that it is necessary that victims share their experiences and tell their stories. By 
retelling the traumatic incident completely, in depth and in detail, the survivor's traumatic 
experience is transformed in a way that can be integrated into the life story of the 
survivor (Herman, 1997). Finally, the third stage is reconnection. Survivors of trauma 
must be able to reestablish healthy relationships with other human beings by developing a 
renewed sense of trust. Herman (1997) says that there is no healing in isolation and that 
recovery can only take pace within the context of relationships. 

Herman's (1997) three-step healing method, however, may not be applicable to 
the victims of political violence in Palestine. The present situation in the region shows 
that security, which is the first step in Herman's method, is yet to be achieved and 
experienced by the Palestinian people. 

In an interesting study, Levine et al. (2009) set out to clarify the relationship of 
resilience to post-traumatic growth. Resilience was defined as "the ability to sustain 
trauma without reporting PTSD," while posttraumatic growth was defined as "the 
development of a positive outlook following trauma" (p. 282). In a study of children aged 
7-9 and adolescents aged 16, they found that posttraumatic growth and resilience were 
inversely related; that is, youths who did not develop symptoms of PTSD and were thus 
presumed to be resilient reported less posttraumatic growth than children who showed 
signs of PTSD. Levine et al. obtained similar results when studying a sample of civilian 
and military adults. They observe that "these findings appear to be intriguing, as 
resilience and posttraumatic growth are both salutogenic outcomes and so intuitively 
should be positively related" (p. 285). They draw the conclusion that trauma survivors 


who show little sign of posttraumatic growth are not, in fact, suffering the ill effects of 
the trauma; instead, their lack of growth is a sign of their native resilience. 

The Use of the Expressive Arts in Healing 

According to Ross (2005), healing the political trauma of the Palestinian people is 
possible. She stresses that the experiences of past generations have shown that healing 
must first be achieved on the individual level and then on the collective level. There are 
people around the world trained to heal trauma who can be called upon. Special 
techniques exist today that can help address individual needs in healing from trauma, 
such as Somatic Experiencing, Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing, Emotional 
Freedom Technique, and others. Research has shown that since trauma resides in the 
body and not in the event, its impact can be reversed by working through the nervous 
system. Many rituals have been developed to heal trauma at the community level. There 
are interventions, for example, which can be done with mothers and infants of both 
groups involved in the political struggle, that will help heal their collective trauma. Just 
allowing the voices of reason in both communities to rise and declare the intention to heal 
and to end the violence would be in itself extremely powerful and transformative. It can 
take time, but the healing process is contagious (Ross, 2005). 

Al-Krenawi et al. (2004) report that the Treatment and Rehabilitation Center for 
Victims of Torture in Ramallah, Palestine, provides clinical and community responses to 
the victims of violence in Palestinian communities. The center has a psychiatrist-director, 
who is assisted by an interdisciplinary team of a psychologist and social workers. As the 


number of referrals has steadily increased since September 2000, the center is not able to 
meet the needs of all the victims of political violence due to limited personnel and 
resources. Hence, there is a need for alternative healing methods so that victims of 
political violence who cannot be accommodated by the hospital can still receive 

One alternative treatment could be expressive arts therapy. Studies by Thompson 
(2006), Al-Krenawi (2007), Al-Ajarma and Schechter (2007), Abu Sway et al. (2005), 
and Holtman (2006) indicate that the arts could be a very useful way of healing trauma in 
general and in the Palestinian community in particular. Expressive arts therapy uses arts 
such as painting, drawing, and sculpture as a form of therapy. It places emphasis not on 
the final product but on the process of creation. Expressive therapy adheres to the idea 
that an individual can best explore and express human feelings, emotions, and thoughts 
through the use of the imagination (Knill, 1999, 2005; Levine, 1999; McNiff, 1992, 1998, 

A practicing therapist herself, Gregerson (2007) recounts her own success in 
using expressive arts therapy to heal herself from the trauma of being in Washington, 
D.C., during the 2001 attack on the Pentagon. She asserts that "resiliency is the most 
common response to traumatizing events" (p. 597), but she also states that "experiences 
immediately after the traumatic event may mediate the trajectory into resiliency or into 
trauma" (p. 598). Thus, there is a narrow window of time after a trauma in which it is 
possible to guide the victim toward resiliency through the use of the expressive arts. 


Through the use of the expressive arts, victims of political violence can have the 
opportunity to move towards healing. In their article, Abu Sway et al. (2005) support the 
use of the intermodal expressive arts by stating that "the therapeutic space in expressive 
arts therapy can provide a haven for the Palestinian people who live under constant 
trauma and fear, and can contribute to their healing process" (p. 170). According to Abu 
Sway et al., art is a universal language that allows everyone to share and understand. It is 
this understanding and affinity that foster change, transformation, and healing of self and 

In her research on expressive arts as healing method for trauma, Holtman (2006) 
demonstrates that art therapy can "access the sensory parts of the brain in non-verbal 
ways [which] are very useful in the natural progression of the trauma memory that is 
'stuck' [in the brain]." Holtman (2006) further explains that art therapy allows 
individuals to connect the non-verbal to the verbal so that cognitive therapy process may 
begin. Through art therapy a victim of traumatic events is able to express the trauma 
through non-verbal means. Holtman (2006) explains this process thus: "art therapy 
techniques are engaged, connecting the activated abstract (non-verbal) and concrete 
sensory memories with the organizing areas of the brain, thereby moving the experience 
into the brain's cognitive structures for resolution of symptoms." Moreover, art therapy 
reintroduces the "visceral sense of safety into the individual's perception of the trauma 
experience [through which] a mindful awareness and acceptance may be cultivated to 
assist the individual in present-orientation and help them develop coping skills" (Holtman 


Julia Byers (2001) explains that "The therapeutic use of art making, within a 
professional relationship, by people who experience illness, trauma or challenges in 
living, and by people who seek personal development. Through creating art and reflecting 
on the art products and processes, people can increase awareness of self and others, cope 
with symptoms, stress and traumatic experiences; enhance cognitive abilities; and enjoy 
the life-affirming pleasures of making art" (Byers, 2001). 

An important component of these expressive therapeutic modalities is the 
reintroduction of a visceral sense of safety into the individual's perception of the trauma 
experience. A mindful awareness and acceptance may be cultivated to assist the 
individual in coming into a present-orientation and help them develop coping skills. In 
addition, techniques are engaged which give the individual greater control of their own 
emotional and physical response. At the same time, the act of making art endows the 
individual with control of both materials and image formation, supporting an intra- 
psychic sense of regained power (Holtman, 2006). More importantly, expressive 
therapies provide intervention opportunities for participants to work through what inhibits 
and blocks them, such as traumatic experiences and fears (Byers 2001). 

Holtman (2006) says that "art therapy can be an essential way to help individuals 
heal from trauma experiences. The creation of a non-verbal, pictorial recovery of the 
traumatic experiences is translated to a coherent verbal narrative. Through this process 
cognitive as well as emotional resolution is made possible." When individuals go through 
traumatic experiences, they acquire symptoms of shock, anxiety, loss, and depression. 
The manifestations and severity of such symptoms depend on the individual and on the 
degree of trauma. Some even try to erase the whole traumatic experiences within their 


consciousness; however, there is always the possibility that a person may re-experience 
the trauma whether physically or mentally. Art serves as a communication tool for 
children. It allows them to express their feelings, emotions, and trauma in a positive way. 
It endows the participants with various techniques that enable them to have control of 
their own emotions. 

Art therapy may indeed be a particularly effective way of communicating with 
children. Snyder (1997), who includes play and storytelling as well as other forms of 
visual artistic expression in the expressive arts, states that expressive arts therapy is 
especially suited to children rather than adults. Art therapy and play therapy alike can 
help children to verbalize their feelings if they are asked to discuss their artwork. By 
opening a line of communication, art therapy can serve as an auxiliary to other modes of 
therapy: "Although expressive art therapy does not resolve profound emotional 
disturbance by itself ... it can do much to precipitate catharsis and reduce internal 
conflict" (Snyder 1997, p. 74). Art therapy can "relieve stress, pressures, and tensions, 
often changing negative aggression into positive energy" (p. 80). 

Through the use of expressive arts, victims of trauma are better able to cope with 
their feelings. They are able to express, unload, and release some of the emotional scars 
buried within themselves. More importantly, expressive arts allow the victim to face their 
trauma in a positive way. Moreover, a sense of control is important in the healing process 
because it gives the individual the opportunity to reclaim the losses of the self, the loss of 
identity, the loss of culture. In using the expressive arts, the participant has total control 
of the material, using it in any way they choose to create an image which will 
communicate some of the emotions, traumas, and fears hidden within the self. In 


addition, by taking control of their work and the choice of materials that they use, 
individuals who have traumatic experiences can slowly regain the feeling of choice and 
perhaps some security. By participating in various forms of arts, the individual acquires 
the freedom to decide what to do, what to share, and what to express. In this way, healing 
can begin to take place. 

The use of expressive arts therapy as a way of healing from the political trauma 
suffered by the Palestinian people has been recognized by researchers and therapists. 
Right now, various therapeutic groups and therapists are using the expressive arts, 
including the visual arts, dance, drama, and music. They are all working together with the 
common goal of helping the victims of trauma cope with their feelings of fear, anger, and 
anxiety. International groups such as the International Trauma Foundation are being 
formed to work with trauma in hospitals and clinics throughout the region (Ross, 2005). 


Resilience and Trauma 

In a review of the literature on trauma, PTSD, and resilience, Agaibi et al. (2005) 
found that the definition of resilience itself varied from study to study (211). The authors 
concede the difficulty in formulating an adequate definition of resilience by suggesting 
that resilience should be defined as a "complex repertoire of behavioral tendencies" 
(Agaibi et al., 2005, 197). But they also offer as a basic definition of resilience, "the 
ability to adapt and cope successfully despite threatening or challenging situations" (p. 
198). Resilience is associated with intelligence, extraversion, and hardiness; it has 


cognitive and emotional components. Resilient people are more likely to use problem- 
solving skills to handle stressors. The counterpart of resilience is vulnerability. 

The human capacity to cope with the horrors of war and other forms of 
psychological trauma arising out of violence is immense. This was amply proved by the 
resilience of the Japanese and the Germans following the devastating impact of the 
Second World War in the two countries. The resilience of Holocaust survivors is another 
case in point. According to a study on 13 Holocaust survivors by Greene (2002), the 
respondents displayed positive themes such as a "conscious decision to go on living, to 
celebrate life, and to think positively about themselves." Greene's analysis suggests that 
despite extreme situations, the actions of Holocaust survivors were marked by "purpose, 
determination, caring, and often, bravery. Resilience can come about even under extreme 
circumstances, and . . . effective communities can be sustained in the most severe 
situations" (2002, p. 7). Greene's work has some merits. For instance, it tries to explore 
how people who have successfully survived adverse situations perceive their own 
resilience. It draws on literature to suggest that "children who experience traumas and 
become resilient adults, often demonstrate personal strengths, empathy, intellectual skills, 
hope, and faith," and resilient adults in turn "may also evidence insight, independence, 
love, initiative, morality, humor, and creativity" (p. 2). 

Golub's thesis (2000) is essentially a critique of Lawrence Langer and William 
Niederland who, she feels, have portrayed Holocaust survivors as "tortured souls," 
"unfortunates," and "totally miserable" (p. 1). Golub debunks such "negative reports," 
stating that they are not always accurate and do not always offer the complete picture. 
Golub's subjects — 20 of them — were drawn from various nationalities. Eight of them 


were originally from Poland; six from Germany; two from Austria; and one each from 
Romania, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Lithuania. All of them lived in the United 

Resilience among Palestinians 

The literature on resilience in the context of coping with traumatic experiences 
resulting from war or war-like situations among the global population in general and 
Palestinians in particular is extremely sparse. The works of Taylor and Wang (2000), 
Joseph (1994), Goldstein and Brooks (2002), La Greca (1990), Bronson (2000), and 
Macy (2003) focus on resilience among children. In their study of vulnerability and 
resilience, Kolk et al. (1996) trace resilience within what they call the "longitudinal 
course of PTSD," which comprises three stages: "the acute stress response, the chronic 
response to the traumatic event, and finally the individual's adaptation to having to 
endure the chronic symptomatic state of PTSD" (p. 157). They point out that the 
individual's response at each of the three steps is influenced by a complex matrix of 
biological, social, temperamental, and experiential issues. 

But none of these works are related to children's' adaptability levels in war-like 
situations. The body of literature on Palestinians' resilience is even more miniscule. 
Studying a sample of Palestinian youths aged 15-18 living in or near Ramallah, Nguyen- 
Gillham et al. (2008) identified as sources of the youths' resilience the following: their 
friends; their families; sports activities (for boys); reading, writing, and drawing (for 
girls); and the pursuit of education (especially for girls). They also found that the normal 


social activities of daily life promote resilience: "For Palestinian youth, resiliency is 
rooted in the capacity to make life as normal as possible" (Gillham et al., 2008, p. 296). 

Despite the trauma arising out of the intense political situation in Palestine, a wide 
cross-section of the Palestinian population is still able to cope with the violence and the 
resulting traumatic experiences. A key variable that emerges out of the work of scholars 
is the role of the family and individual family members in overcoming trauma. Resilience 
is shaped by the interactions that a trauma victim has with his or her immediate family 
members. In a sample study on 86 Palestinian children, Punamaki et al. (2001) has tried 
to show that resiliency is a "dynamic" process. She argues that "issues that strengthen or 
weaken resiliency in traumatic stress relate to the children themselves, to their parental 
and family responses, and to their social and cultural milieux" (Punamaki et al., 2001, p. 
257). On a general level, Herman (1997) highlights the effect of the social support that 
"traumatized people seek from family, lovers, and close friends." Such support takes 
many forms and it changes during the course of resolution of the trauma. In the 
immediate aftermath of the trauma, rebuilding some minimal form of trust is the primary 
task, and assurances of safety and protection are of the greatest importance. 

The study by Gralinski-Bakker et al. (2004), though not done on Palestinians, can, 
however, be applicable to some of the trauma-affected people of Palestine at a more 
general level. According to Gralinski-Bakker et al., "resilience has been inferred on the 
basis of successful adaptation among individuals who faced challenging or threatening 
circumstances" (p. 294). Such individuals adopted a life-course perspective in which they 
considered "emotional and motivational self-evaluative processes" that were believed to 
contribute to psychological well-being and to guide behavior and development over time. 


In other words, coping mechanisms and strategies (Mowbray, 1988, p. 198) shape 
the process of resilience among children. The manner in which children behave and feel 
in traumatic situations, as well as how they make sense of those situations, is crucial in 
determining their adjustment. Elsewhere, Qouta et al. (2001) stress the importance of the 
"mental flexibility" that characterizes resilient children's "information processing style." 
The study by Qouta et al., which is not too different from that of Punamaki et al., 
concludes that "mental flexibility moderated the negative impact of traumatic events in 
psychological wellbeing only when hostilities had calmed down, but not in the midst of 
violence" (Qouta et al., 2001, p. 5). 

While the study of children and resilience has been moderately exhaustive, there 
is little or no literature on how adult Palestinians cope with violence-related trauma. In 
yet another sample study, Punamaki et al. (2006) have focused on 65 Palestinian families 
and the individual members' response to trauma. The central thesis of this study is 
slightly more complex than the findings of the studies on children. According to 
Punamaki et al. (2006, p. 9), data analyses revealed complementary dynamics, especially 
between parents and their children, "indicating that when one member was suffering, 
others showed no symptoms and when one was resilient and satisfied, others showed 
weakness, and vice versa." Such results suggest that, as opposed to the variables that 
affect children's degree of resilience, adults and teenagers respond to trauma and cope 
with traumatic experiences because of their varying life experiences and their coping 
skills within a given social and cultural setting. 

The question of culturally specific ways in which youths develop resilience has 
also been investigated by Ungar et al. (2007). They stress that resilience is "an outcome 


of interactions between individuals and their environments" (288). Given this emphasis 
on environment, they are interested in identifying the factors that promote resistance in 
specific cultural environments. They interviewed small groups of youths (aged 12-23) 
from 14 communities around the world to identify culturally specific sources of 
resilience. The interviews identified seven recurring "tensions" faced by the respondents: 
access to material resources, relationships, identity, cohesion, power and control, cultural 
adherence, and social justice. Interestingly, in a discussion of identity, the authors note 
that respondents generally talked about issues of identity as they applied to the "I" of the 
respondent, with the exception of a Palestinian youth who "spoke of identity without any 
reference to the 'I,' and always in recognition of his role as a part of the collective 
political movement in Palestine" (p. 297). 

Indeed, political awareness seems in and of itself to function as a source of 
resilience for Palestinians. Barber (2001) approached the Intifada as "a unique laboratory 
to study youth development in an environment fraught with forms of risk, trauma, and 
strong personal, political, cultural, social, and religious forces not typically associated — 
at least not to this intensity, duration, and complexity — with child and adolescent 
experience" (p. 260). He found that, contrary to expectation, participation in the Intifada 
did not pose a threat to general psychological well-being. Moreover, Intifada involvement 
was positively related to religiosity and family values. Barber explained that participation 
in a politically meaningful and culturally esteemed struggle provided a source of meaning 
in the lives of Palestinian youth. Likewise, Altawil (2008) concluded that "Direct 
evidence from . . . Palestine . . . shows that active engagement in or ideological 
commitment to political struggle can increase resilience" (p. 45). Furthermore, 


"Ideological support for children living in the West Ban and Gaza Strip may buffer some 
of the stress of war" (p. 54). On the other hand, allegiance to a political ideology can 
provoke or prolong conflict that increases stress and trauma. 

Summing up the results of their study, Ungar et al. (2007) noted that efforts to 
promote resilience must always take into account the particular features of the culture in 
which they are deployed. This attention to cultural context is demonstrated by Nguyen- 
Gillham et al. (2008), who are particularly concerned to distinguish Palestinian resilience 
from Western ideas of resilience, which are focused on the individual. Pointing to the 
Palestinian concept ofsumud, "a determination to exist through being steadfast and 
rooted to the land," they argue that "within a Palestinian context, suffering and endurance 
have to be interpreted at both an individual and collective level. . . . Resilience is 
(re)constituted as a wider collective and social representation of what it means to endure" 
(p. 292). Consequently, Nguyen-Gillham et al. question the appropriateness of the 
Western psychological counseling methods practiced by international relief workers, 
which treat the individual as a patient to be cured, and advocate strengthening the social 
and family networks that the youths themselves identified as the sources of their 
resilience: "A biomedical model of psychiatry that focuses on individual counselling 
neglects a culturally framed network of community fortitude and support." 

Following a study of only 20 Lebanese students, Oweini (1998) concludes that 
coping with war stress is dependent on a variety of factors, such as the intermittent nature 
of the war, campus safety, socioeconomic status, intensity and length of exposure to life- 
threatening events, adaptive mechanisms and personality traits, the role of religion, and, 
finally, strong support networks of friends and family (p. 421). These factors were found 


to play a critical role in helping students cope more effectively with the war in Lebanon. 
A major drawback of the study was that it was conducted among students (10 boys and 
10 girls) of Lebanese origin who attended the American University at Beirut and, 
therefore, represented the middle and upper classes of Lebanese society. The sample was 
not large enough to include a wider cross-section of people, such as Palestinians living in 
refugee camps or those belonging to the lower middle class. 

Rothchild (2007) provides narrative and anecdotal accounts of Jewish and 
Palestinian cases of trauma and resilience. In the course of the storytelling, she unravels 
the psychological consequences of living under the occupation, and the role of the family, 
especially of mothers, whose communicative skills and warmth go a long way in 
mitigating children's' trauma. She cites the case of one psychologist who was "always 
amazed by the resilience of his patients, by their ability to cope with such an extreme 
level of suffering" in Gaza and the West Bank (p. 192). 

Sources of Resilience in the Palestinian Community 


Education in Palestine is not an individual pursuit. It is a family and societal affair 
that everyone participates in. For children in particular, school "provides the main 
support and social network" (Altawil, 2008, p. 37). However, there are scholars who 
claim that while education is an important theme, it is a "complicated territory" since 
there are important variations in the manner in which education is "either glorified or 
demonized" (Chatty & Hundt, 2005, p. 176). The majority of Palestinians believe that 


education can improve their living conditions not only by opening doors to employment 
but also by inoculating people against the attempts to destroy Palestinian identity and the 
Palestinian culture (Palestinian Right to Education Campaign, 2007). 

Indeed, education has long been a fraught topic in the administration of Palestinian 
territory. The Turkish government, the British Mandate, Jordan and Egypt, and the State 
of Israel have successively controlled the educational system in Palestine. Writing two 
years after the beginning of the first Intifada, Mahshi and Bush (1989) describe how 
Palestinians responded to the Israeli closure of schools in the occupied territories. 
Palestinians interpreted the school closings as a direct attack on education, which they see 
as a solution to many of the problems they confront. Thus, in order to minimize the 
disruption of the school closings, which marked a threat to national identity, Palestinians 
organized neighborhood schools in almost every town in the West Bank, a movement 
known as "Popular Education." As a result of this movement, Palestinian educators were 
freshly inspired to develop a distinctively Palestinian educational system stripped of the 
influence of colonial systems. Palestinians, write Mahshi and Bush, "have come to realize 
that an educational system stemming from their own culture and responding to their 
particular needs is essential in the foundation of a future state" (482). 

In a 2005 interview, Mahshi (2006) reflected on the changes in Palestinian 
education occurring after 1989, when Mahshi and Bush (1989) described the effect of the 
first Intifada on the school system. Mahshi noted the formation under the Palestinian 
Authority of a Ministry of Education and Higher Education, which does not, however, 
operate with total freedom. Looking back, Mahshi stated that, on the positive side, the 
Intifada had inculcated in the Palestinians a spirit of resistance, which served as a source 


of strength and resilience: "Education creates resistance by clarifying what the harmful 
effects of occupation are and by reinforcing the sense of community" (1989, p. 71). On 
the other hand, the closing of the schools had a severe impact on the quality of primary 
and secondary education. Nevertheless, under the Palestinian Authority, the Ministry of 
Education was able to arrange for the creation of a genuinely Palestinian curriculum that 
would strengthen the sense of national identity. 

While primary schools and high schools have a formative effect on students' 
values, sense of identity, and therefore their personal resilience, higher educational 
institutions also play a seminal role in the development of community resilience. National 
institutions of higher learning can contribute immeasurably to the articulation and 
development of a national consciousness. They can provide training in the development 
of Palestinian society itself and can strengthen the social and cultural foundations of a 
society torn asunder by a military occupation imposed by a "settler colonial state" (Abu 
Lughod, 2000, p. 83). The goals set forth in the mission statements of Palestinian 
universities and colleges are telling: to impart knowledge to students, to serve the needs 
of the Palestinian people, to provide the skills necessary for Palestinians to develop their 
culture and social and economic institutions, and to meet the needs of a developing 
Palestinian society and economy (Abu Lughod, 2000, p. 84). As Hallaj points out, "the 
motivation [for higher education] was heightened when the loss of land by a 
predominantly agrarian society drove it to compensate by searching for more secure ways 
to earn a living" (Hallaj, 1980, p. 78). This fact helped enhance the survival capabilities 
of Palestinians in exile as well as under occupation. 


Palestine has eight universities and four colleges. There is no doubt that the 
establishment of these universities in Palestine was a response to the desperate need to 
meet the increasing demand for national higher education, but it was also qualitatively 
related to the protection and enhancement of Palestinian culture and cultural values. 
Hallaj (1980) points to the high value Palestinians place on education, as indicated by the 
relatively high percentage of Palestinians who are university students, but notes that very 
many Palestinians must leave the West Bank or Gaza to attend university. Students who 
obtain their education outside Palestine do not share the same cultural foundation as those 
who remain in Palestine. Looking forward to an independent Palestinian state, Hallaj 
describes the role that higher education should play in the nation-building process. One of 
the tasks of higher education, he argues, is "to develop an effective cultural base for its 
educational and training programmes designed to foster certain attitudinal tendencies and 
thought processes" in students (Hallaj, 1980, p. 91). In particular, these attitudes and 
ways of thinking should "foster attitudes and values supportive of a pluralistic- 
constitutional polity." Thus, by promoting social stability, higher education can help 
build resilience on the societal level. 

Family and Social Support 

Early studies tended to focus on the individual as the locus of resilience. Recently, 
however, researches have begun to study how families and communities function to 
promote resilience in individuals. Mackay (2005) reviewed the research literature on 
family resilience, as opposed to the resilience of individual children. He adopts a 


definition of family resilience as "a dynamic process encompassing positive adaptation 
within the context of significant adversity" (p. 99). Mackay found that families that have 
strong emotional bonds among their members are more resilient: they are better able to 
cope with stressors. Families with strong belief systems — a strong set of shared values 
and assumptions that may correspond to a religious or spiritual outlook — also 
demonstrate resilience, because their members are better prepared to make sense of 

Simon et al. (2005) observed that family resilience is more than the sum of the 
resiliences of its members; the dynamics within the family unit determine the level of the 
family's resilience. Key features that promote family resilience are a belief system shared 
by family members, organizational acumen, and good communication skills (p. 428). 
Furthermore, Simon et al. found that families that reach out for help or support to 
extended family, friends, or community members show improved resilience. Simon et al. 
propose treatment strategies that recognize and build on the inherent strengths of a family 
to develop resilience, instead of a traditional psychopathological approach that focuses on 
eliminating family dysfunction. 

"Social support, emotional ties with parents, and trust are considered essential in 
fostering children's resiliency against traumatic stress" (Punamaki et al., 2001, p. 257). In 
addition, Etherington (2003) wrote that "the family, social, and cultural context might 
also play an important part for those who have been traumatized" (p. 30). Similarly, 
Altawil (2008) surveyed the factors that may stave off the effects of trauma in children 
and found that, in general, "a high level of social support, family cohesiveness, and 
family communication has been found to protect children by mediating the effect of war 


trauma" (p. 48). Social support is key, and family is an essential source of support: 
"Strong ties among Arab families appear to shield family members from incidents that 
otherwise might be experienced as disastrous" (p. 40). Next to family, friends and the 
school environment are also a crucial source of support for children and youths. 
Community support is another source of social support that can mitigate the damage of a 
traumatic event. 

Punamaki et al. state that research among Palestinians pointed to the fact that 
parental and maternal love, intimacy, and wise disciplining enhanced children's 
resiliency through increased creativity and cognitive capacity (Punamaki et al., 1997). 
Research on Palestinian children has found that parental love, affection, and proper 
discipline considerably raised a child's level of resilience by increasing their creative and 
cognitive capacities (Ayalon, 1993; Punamaki, 1997). Garbarino and Kostelny (1996) 
concluded that children who faced multiple risks from Intifada-related violence but who 
lived in a supportive family environment were less likely to develop psychological 
problems. On the other hand, children who faced multiple Intifada-related risks but did 
not live in a supportive family environment were deemed to be at a high risk of 
psychological or developmental problems. 

Studies on resilience in children exposed to wartime stresses and trauma found that 
parental behavior had a strong effect on their children's resilience (Agaibi et al., 2005). 
For example, if a mother is unable to control her intrusive PTSD symptoms (e.g., 
recalling horrible war images) and expresses avoidant coping patterns, her children will 
be more vulnerable to stresses of war. According to Punamaki et al. (2001), this is 
evidence that the trauma experienced by the child is dependent on how the parents react. 


In fact, Massad et al. (2009) found a positive correlation between the mental health of 
mothers and the resilience of their children, and concluded that "maternal mental health 
may buffer the impact of adversity on small children; their functioning might be a 
powerful risk factor for the children's well-being" (p. 94). 

Family support, however, may sometimes have a counterintuitive effect on 
children. Theorizing that a child's social support network and personal sense of hope 
might protect against PTSD, Kasler et al. (2008) studied a sample of Israeli children aged 
9-1 1 years whose hometown had suffered intense rocket attacks during the 2006 war 
with Lebanon. They found that a higher level of hope meant that a child was less likely to 
develop PTSD. On the other hand, they found a positive correlation between family 
support and PTSD symptoms. This correlation appears to contradict that claim that 
family support protects children from trauma. The researchers concluded, however, that 
children who displayed the symptoms of PTSD were more likely to discuss their 
traumatic experience with family members or teachers, thus leading to opportunities for 

When considering the role of family support and social support in promoting 
resilience among Palestinian children, however, it is necessary to keep in mind the effect 
of the Intifada itself on families and society. Garbarino and Kostelny (1996) noted that 
the arrest and imprisonment of family members deprived many boys of their role models, 
putting them at a higher risk of developing psychological trauma than girls. School 
closings, too, were more likely to affect boys by depriving daily life of its structure. The 
authors also noted that changes in Palestinian society had led to more freedom and 


responsibilities for women and girls, and that increased independence and responsibility 
are associated with resiliency in girls. 

Sports and Physical Activities 

There is not much literature that deals with sport as a way of overcoming trauma. 
According to the International Platform on Sport & Development (2008), "the use of 
sport as a means to provide psychosocial support to people affected by disaster is a 
relatively new area of sport and development. A small number of research efforts and 
project evaluations have begun to help us understand the link between participation in 
sport and physical activity and trauma relief (International Council of Sport, 2007). 
Nguyen-Gillham et al. (2008), who studied resilience in a sample of Palestinian youths 
aged 15-18, found that sports activities were a source of resilience for boys, though not 
for girls. 

In many places in the world, the aim of sports and play programs is to restore 
children's social well-being and psychological health within their community (Henley et 
al., 2007). In addition, "Sports and physical activity can have an important function in 
assisting victims of trauma to cope with physical and emotional trauma" (International 
Council of Sport, 2007). According to Henley et al. (2007) "Play has long been 
understood to provide children with the experiences they need in order to learn social 
skills and values. Through play, children become sensitive to other children's needs and 
values, learn to handle exclusion and dominance, manage their emotions, learn self- 
control, plus to share power, space, and ideas with others. . . . Sport and play activities 


provide children with the opportunity to negotiate and resolve conflict" (Erikson, 1977; 
McArdle, 2001; Piaget, 1959; Winnicott, 1968; cited in Henley et al., 2007). 


A large body of work has demonstrated the very crucial role of religion in the lives of 
many Palestinians. As Teeffelen writes: "a factor relevant to the cultural sumud — 
Steadfastness — of Palestinians is the importance of religion as a source of faith, spiritual 
commitment, guidance and consolation. . . . During uncertain and seemingly hopeless 
times, many persons and families consider faith as a beacon for spiritual orientation" 
(Teeffelen 2005, p. 422). Likewise, Schuster et al. state that their survey indicated that 
Americans responded to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in various ways. Most 
of them turned to religion and also to one another for social support (Schuster et al., 
2001, p. 1511). 

Religious belief is not simply a source of comfort or consolation, however. There 
is an important cognitive element at work. Like Teeffelen (2005) and Schuster et al. 
(2001), Peres et al. (2007) note that many people respond to traumatic events on the basis 
of their religious beliefs and argue that religious belief may foster resilience. Pointing to 
Antonovsk's concept of a "sense of coherence," they suggest that "A decisive factor in 
developing resilience may be the way individuals perceive and process an experience" 
(Peres 2007, p. 346). Addressing a specifically Palestinian context, Altawil (2008) 
concluded that spirituality or religious belief can provide a framework of meaning that 
lessens trauma by locating adversity in a larger context: "Muslims believe that one should 


endure life's burdens without complaint, and that only God, not humans, can help 
people" (p. 40). Because religious or spiritual beliefs can provide a narrative or cognitive 
framework that allows one to make sense of suffering and find purpose or meaning in 
life, Peres et al. (2007) call for further study of the connection between religion or 
spirituality and resilience. This connection should also be compared to the link between 
political ideology and resilience, since a political ideology also provides a framework in 
which to perceive and process experience. 

The social aspects of religion also promote resilience. Carter (2007) describes an 
ethnographic study of devotion to Catholic saints among Catholics and Voodoo 
practitioners in New Orleans, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Rather than investigating 
the connection between individual religious belief and resilience, the study focuses on the 
social dimensions of religious belief and practice as a way of constructing resilience on 
the community level. Shared religious belief fosters resilience by encouraging the 
construction of social networks and promoting the revitalization of communities. Altawil 
(2008), studying Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, also noted that receiving support from 
other members of a religious community promotes resilience. But Carter notes one 
problem that can thwart the development of solidarity: "religious groups do not 
necessarily share the same vision of recovery and revitalization" (2007, p. 7). Thus, 
religious differences can undermine community resilience if they lead to conflict among 
community members. 


Chapter 3: Methodology 

The goal of this study is to understand the impact of the arts on the development 
of resilience among Palestinians who are now studying in the U.S. Thus, at the core of 
this study are the interviews conducted with seven Palestinian graduate students attending 
American universities. An analysis of these interviews, presented in chapter 4, yielded 
the participants' observations on many themes, such as the relationship between the arts 
and resilience, the negative effects of trauma, and the role of family, education, and 
community in building resilience among Palestinians. 

This study employs qualitative methods to answer the research questions it poses. 
Qualitative research has the unique ability to provide insight into the underlying issues 
that are most pertinent to the population under study. Denzin and Lincoln (1998) wrote: 

Qualitative research is multi-method in focus, involving an interpretive 
naturalistic approach to its subject matter. This means that qualitative researchers 
study things in their natural setting, attempting to make sense of, or interpret, 
phenomena in terms of the meaning people bring to them. Qualitative research 
involves the studied use and collection of a variety of empirical materials— case 
study, personal experience, introspective, life story, interview, observational, 
historical, interactional and visual texts— that describe routine and problematic 
moments and meaning in individuals' lives, (pp. 2-3) 

In the following sections I describe the methodology of the interview process, and the 
procedures for gathering data and analyzing it. 


Narrative Inquiry and the Interview Process 
Narrative Inquiry 

One qualitative approach to research that seeks to reveal a wide range of human 
thoughts, emotions, and experiences is that of narrative inquiry (Clandinin & Connelly, 
2000). Connelly and Clandinin (2006) define narrative inquiry this way: 

Arguments for the development and use of narrative inquiry come out of a view 
of human experience in which humans, individually and socially, lead storied 
lives. People shape their daily lives by stories of who they and others are and as 
they interpret their past in terms of these stories. Story, in the current idiom, is a 
portal through which a person enters the world and by which their experience of 
the world is interpreted and made personally meaningful. Viewed this way, 
narrative is the phenomenon studied in inquiry. Narrative inquiry, the study of 
experience, then, is first and foremost a way of thinking about experience. 
Narrative inquiry as a methodology entails a view of the phenomenon. To use 
narrative inquiry methodology is to adopt a particular narrative view of 
experience as a phenomenon under study, (p. 477) 

Similar to phenomenology, narrative inquiry seeks to understand lived experience 
and how individuals describe and perceive their experiences (Patton, 2004). Moreover, 
observation during interviews is a fundamental and highly important component of the 
process. Narrative inquiry is an interactive and dynamic process of telling stories and 
listening to the stories of others. Reissman (1993) indicated that the foremost way for 
human beings "to make sense of their experience is by casting it in narrative form" (p. 4). 

Narrative inquiry is guided by the belief that people are social beings, and 
consequently that telling stories is primary to relating to others (Clandinin, Pushor, & 
Orr, 2007; McLeod, 2004). In addition, personal stories of lived realities help transfer 
extremely complex concepts and the effects of highly embedded traditions in society to 
more understandable, humane, and personal levels (Ellis & Bochner, 1996). McLeod 


(2004) indicated that storytelling is central to being known by oneself and by others, and 
that it promotes social inclusion. Sharing life stories brings the unknown into the known, 
and it allows individuals to view lived realities through the lens of another, opening their 
eyes to a new way of seeing and being in the world. Further, empathy may be gained 
across varying social contexts through storytelling and listening to others share about 
their lives (Gamson, 2002). Moreover, in narrative inquiry, the core of the interpretation 
and analysis is understanding what people value, how they think, and how they have 
found meaning in or made sense of events in their lives (Riley & Hawe, 2005). Riley & 
Hawe (2005) indicate that "narrative inquiry seeks themes and analyzes them and studies 
the world through the eyes of one storyteller" (p. 229). 

According to Patton (2004), the narrative focus of qualitative research honors 
people's stories as data that can stand on their own as pure descriptions of experience 
worthy of narrative documentary, or can be analyzed for connections between the 
psychological, sociological, cultural, political, and dramatic dimensions of human 
experience (p. 1 16). Patton (2004) adds that 

It [the interview] is used to discover complex interactions in natural social 
settings. Even in in-depth interview studies, observation plays an important role 
as a researcher notes the interviewee's body language and affects in addition to 
her/his words, (p. 107) 

The Interview Process 

In order to explore my questions, I used the case study approach, which focuses 
on the individual narratives of the interviewees. Using the interviewees' "life story" as a 
narrative form is part of the broader qualitative research method that relies on gathering 


information on the subjective essence of the interviewees' lives. I chose to collect data by 
conducting face-to-face interviews. 

There are many types of interviews with many styles of questions, and each is 
appropriate in different circumstances. In this study, I used the semi-structured approach. 
Semi-structured interviews can be defined as "conversations with a purpose" (Mason 
2002); the interviewer starts with a number of predetermined questions or topics, but then 
adopt a flexible approach for discussion with the interviewee. As Leech (2002, p. 665) 
points out, "In an interview, what you already know is as important as what you want to 
know. What you want to know determines which questions you will ask. What you 
already know will determine how you ask them." Reinharz (1992) notes, "Multiple 
interviews are likely to be more accurate than single interviews because of the 
opportunity to ask additional questions and to get corrective feedback on previously 
obtained information" (p. 37). I chose to conduct lengthy single interviews, which 
allowed me to follow up on points made by the interviewees. During the interviews I 
asked the interviewees an open-ended question: "Can you tell me about your personal 


My study sample can be described as a purposeful sample. Michael Patton 
identified 16 different kinds of purposeful sampling categories (1990); snowball or chain 
sampling is one of them. This particular purposeful sampling technique identifies cases of 
interest from people who know people who are good candidates for interview subjects — 


people whose cases are information rich and are thus good examples for study. By using 
chain sampling, I was able to identify seven interviewees whose life histories were 
relevant to the present study and whose cases were information rich. 

Interview procedures 

Interviews were scheduled with the participants after they signed a Written 
Consent Letter (see Appendix 1). The Consent Letter describes the purpose of the study 
and the way the data will be gathered, and guarantees confidentiality of the data. The 
interviews took place in a familiar setting, since "Creating the setting that helps the 
person feel comfortable is fundamental to a good interview" (Atkinson, 1998, p. 30). The 
same amount of time, 90-120 minutes, was allocated for each of the subjects. Also, 
structuring the interviews helped to eliminate or minimize problems of reactivity. These 
measures helped to ensure that the observations were systematic, thereby facilitating the 
recording of what was seen and heard and making it easier to identify indicators of the 
key concepts defined above. 

The life-story approach begins with the recorded interviews, which are then 
transcribed and transformed into flowing narratives. I tape-recorded the interviews, which 
were conducted in Arabic; then I transcribed the tapes and translated the interviews into 
English. In a preliminary stage of analysis, I compiled the results of the interviews in 
narrative form. Then, I identified recurring themes in the narratives. I used those themes 
to analyzed the results of the interviews and reorganize them in thematic form; the 
reorganized interview data is presented in the following chapter (chapter 4). 



Most of the interview data was in Arabic and the research report was to be written 
in English. The nature of the story I was writing needed holistic rather than piecemeal 
data, so I needed to translate each complete interview from Arabic into English. Reading 
hundreds of pages of data in two languages, English written from left to right and Arabic 
from right to left, was in itself a great challenge. Translation required a knowledge of 
subject-specific terminology, and an awareness of style, grammar, and idiomatic 
expressions. Most of the time, my own knowledge of Arabic was sufficient to obtain 
acceptable translations, but I often referred to Arabic-English and English-Arabic 

Analysis of Data 

Qualitative modes of data analysis provide ways of discerning, examining, 
comparing and contrasting, and interpreting meaningful patterns or themes. Moreover, 
qualitative data consist of words and observations. As with all data, analysis and 
interpretation are required to bring order and understanding to the phenomena. Data 
analysis involves arranging and organizing the information gathered, and data 
interpretation seeks to create meaning and make sense of the shared information (Bogdan 
& Biklen, 2003). 


Data analysis requires creativity, discipline, and a systematic approach. In order to 
make the best use of the data collected in the interviews, I used typical analytic 
procedures, which include, as Marshall and Rossman (1999, p. 152) suggest: 

1) Organizing the data. 

2) Generating categories, themes, and patterns. 

3) Coding the data. 

4) Testing the emergent understandings. 

5) Searching for alternative explorations. 

6) Writing the report. 

The collected data of this study consisted of audiotaped recordings of the 
Palestinian students' interviews and discussions. Once the data were gathered, I devoted a 
good of amount of time and attention to repeatedly listening to the recordings and 
rereading transcriptions of the recordings for the purposes of analyzing "narrative threads 
and themes" that developed (Clandinin & Connelly, 2005, p. 1 13); and then interpreting 
the information and constructing the meaning of what was recorded and shared. In order 
to analyze and interpret the described experiences of the interviewees in this study, I 
listened and re-listened to the participants' voices within each interview and sought to 
understand how each of them appeared to make sense of their experiences and create 
meaning from them (Chase, 2005). As I studied the data from the interviews, I was 
guided by my research questions: 

Question # 1 : What are the sources of resilience for Palestinians? 


Question # 2: What is the role of family, community, and education in building 
resilience in the Palestinian community? 

Question # 3 : What role do the arts play in building resilience for individuals in 
societies experiencing violent conflict, especially among 

As mentioned above, the first step in organizing the data was to compile the results of the 
interviews in narrative form. Then, by keeping my research questions in mind as I studied 
the data, I was able to identify themes, subthemes, and patterns that appeared and 
reappeared in the interviews. The themes and subthemes fell into three broad categories 
that reflect my research questions: education, family and community, and the arts. Once I 
had developed a comprehensive list of themes that appeared throughout the interviews, I 
studied the interviews again and coded them according to the themes I had generated. 
Next, I constructed a set of tables, each row of which contained a theme and the 
statements of each participant that were relevant to that theme. It is important to note that 
each participant did not address each theme; in the analysis chapter I have indicated 
which participants spoke about each theme. Finally, I used the data in the tables to write 
an account of the participants' responses, organized according to theme. The following 
chapter presents the themes that emerged from the individual interviews I conducted with 
the Palestinian students. 


Chapter 4: Results 

In this chapter, I present the evidence collected from the interviews on three 
themes. I extracted the participants' comments on the three major themes as follows: the 
importance in their lives of (1) education; (2) family and community support; and (3) the 
arts. The participants' comments are arranged according to various subthemes, which are 
described at the beginning of each section. This arrangement makes it easier to compare 
and contrast the participants' views on each issue. In the following chapter, I will discuss 
the significance of the patterns of agreement and disagreement that I identified in the 
seven interviews. 

Before turning to the thematic presentation of the interview results, however, I 
must introduce the seven participants, who are all Palestinians pursuing graduate studies 
in the U.S. In the following paragraphs, I identify each participant by a name — which is a 
pseudonym — and present some basic biographical information on each. 


Ghadeer is a 35-year-old woman. She came to the U.S. on a scholarship to pursue 
a Ph.D. She is the youngest child in a large family; she has 10 brothers and sisters. 
Ghadeer learned many lessons from the stories that she used to hear from her parents, 
especially the story of how they were forced to leave their village. Ghadeer' s two uncles 
were killed in the 1948 massacre. One of her brothers was imprisoned by the Israelis for a 


long time. Ghadeer said that her family has helped her to survive and given her the 
strength to endure her own struggles. 


Nael is a 33-year-old man. He was trained in the maintenance field and worked in 
that field for several years, but due to an injury he had to find another occupation. He 
began working with children in a community center run by an NGO, and later he received 
a scholarship to continue his graduate studies in the U.S. 

Nael was born in a refugee camp near Bethlehem, where he grew up in a large 
family: he is the youngest among eleven brothers and three sisters. He received much 
support from his sisters and from his nieces and nephews, who were close to him in age. 
Nael's family taught him how to live with pain, and to love education and his land. 

Nael was raised in a political atmosphere, and two of his brothers were 
imprisoned for a long time. When his family's house was demolished by Israeli solders in 
1983, community support helped them to find temporary shelter and rebuild their house. 


Abed is a 3 3 -year-old man. He graduated from the Jordanian University in the 
mid-nineties and then worked with the police department under the Palestinian Authority. 
Subsequently he worked in the human rights field with the Palestinian Independent 
Commission for Citizens' Rights and the United Nations. Later, Abed had the 


opportunity to finish his master's degree in the U.S. In addition, he received a scholarship 
to obtain his Ph.D. and returned to the U.S. 

Abed was born in the southern part of the West Bank, where he and his older 
brother grew up in a loving family. He lost his father when he was in the sixth grade. 
Consequently, Abed's mother played an important role in his life. Today he is married 
and has three children. 


Ahmed is a 30-year-old man. He came to the U.S. to study music and filmmaking, 
and is interested in integrating the two fields. 

Ahmed's ancestors lived in northern Palestine where they had beautiful fields full 
of orange trees, until they were forced to leave in 1948. Many of Ahmed's relatives 
moved to the Gaza Strip, Egypt, or Jordan. Only a few of them, including Ahmed's 
father, settled in the northern part of the West Bank where Ahmed was born, and where 
his older brother and younger sister live. 

Ahmed's father was a teacher of Arabic, religion, and history. He played a central 
role in developing many of his children's values. Ahmed was raised to love his country 
and never to forget the importance of his land and family. 


Rania, the youngest of the participants, is a 28-year-old woman. She lives in a 
small Palestinian refugee camp. Rania was born in a big family. She graduated from 
Bethlehem University. She received a scholarship to travel to the U.S. to continue her 

Rania was the youngest child in her family; she has nine brothers and sisters. Her 
family lived in a small house in a refugee camp near Bethlehem, and she said that her 
parents raised her with good values. Many of her siblings were imprisoned during the 
first Intifada. 


Mohammed, the oldest of the participants, is a 44-year-old man. He earned a 
bachelor's degree from Birzeit University in Ramallah, and a master's degree from Al- 
Quds University in Jerusalem. Mohammed came to the U.S. with his family after he 
received a scholarship to continue his doctoral studies. 

Mohammed was born in a refugee camp near the city of Hebron. He was the 
youngest of 10 children. His parents were poor refugees. Mohammed's family taught him 
many values, including to be kind, gentle, and helpful. He said that his mother is the most 
important person in his life. 


Aseel is a 35-year-old woman. She has a master's degree from Birzeit University 
in Palestine. In 2005 she received a scholarship to continue her Ph.D. studies in the U.S. 

Aseel' s father was a dentist and her mother was a teacher. Her parents fled to 
Lebanon after the 1967 Six Day War between Israel and the Arabs. Aseel and her 
younger sister were born in Lebanon; her family was forced to move to Syria in 1982 
after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. Aseel lived as a refugee in Lebanon and Syria for 
the first 20 years of her life, coming to Palestine with her family in 1994. 


The seven participants agreed on the importance of education in their own lives 
and in the lives of their fellow Palestinians. Their comments in the interviews touched on 
many topics, in addition to their own experiences in primary and secondary schools and 
at university. The participants emphasized the role of their families in encouraging and 
aiding them to complete their education. They also reflected on education as a value they 
had themselves adopted, in part because it contributed to their sense of identity and their 
overall self-improvement. Finally, the participants drew connections between education 
and political activity as well as education and the arts, and several participants indicated 
how education served to increase their own resilience as well as the resilience of others. 

I will begin by summarizing the participants' comments on the role their families 
played in their education. Then I will review their accounts of their experiences at school. 


In the remainder of this section, I will present the participants' views on education as a 
personal value, and their views on the broader relationship between education and 
politics, education and the arts, and education and resilience. 

Family Contexts 

Although all of the participants were pursuing postgraduate education, they were 

not all the children of educated parents. Aseel was born into an educated family: "My 
father worked as a dentist and my mother was a kindergarten teacher." Ahmed's father 
was a teacher of history and religion. Abed's grandfather had been a private teacher at the 
king's palace. Ghadeer, however, said, "My father was a farmer. He could not finish his 
education because he had to help my grandfather in the fields." Rania's parents finished 
primary school, but they were unable to continue their education. 

Regardless of their parents' educational status, however, the participants agreed 
that their parents had recognized the importance of education. Rania stated, "Even though 
my parents were not able to continue their education, they believed in the importance of 
education as the only way to secure one's future. They knew that knowledge is the way to 
a better future." Ghadeer said, "My father believed that education was the only path one 
should follow in life." Indeed, the parents of Rania and Ghadeer ensured that all of their 
children received the full education that they themselves had been unable to obtain. Rania 
explained that "My family encouraged and helped me and all of my brothers and sisters 
to finish our college education." Ghadeer likewise reported that all of her brothers and 
sisters are educated: "All my brothers and sisters managed to finish their higher 
education: one of my brothers has a Ph.D. degree and another has a master's degree." 


Indeed, most of the participants seemed to take pride in the fact that many of their 
siblings and other relatives were educated. Mohammed talked about his family members' 
educations and said proudly, "My father lived 110 years. He died in 1996. 1 have five 
sisters and four brothers, seven of whom have a university degree." Aseel, whose parents 
had been educated, noted that "My sister finished her Ph.D. from Germany." Ghadeer 
was very happy that she, along with her relatives, had been educated: "My father sent one 
of my uncles and one of my aunties to study in Egypt and sent me to study in Ramallah." 
Abed in particular spoke in detail about his family's education: 

My extended family is considered to be one of the most educated families. My 
grandfather received a Bachelor of Arts degree in physics from the American 
University in Egypt. My grandfather used to speak Turkish, English, and Arabic. 
He was a school principal, and since that time education has been important in my 
family. . I grew up in a loving family. My family has always believed in the 
importance of education." 

Abed's family history differed from that of the other participants, in that Abed's 
father died when he was very young. But his father's death only strengthened his resolve 
to pursue his education: 

I lost my father at an early age. In a community where the father plays a central 
role, the son should represent his father even after he passes away. My father 
passed away when I was very young, when I was in the sixth grade and my oldest 
brother was in the ninth grade. That made us concentrate more on education. 

Abed's motivation for getting an education was thus deeply rooted in his 
particular family experience, and he himself stated that he wants to teach his children to 


love education. But other participants drew similar connections between their family life 
and their pursuit of an education. 

Rania recounted that her family always believed in the importance of education: 
"My parents used to focus on education." Ghadeer stated that education and family were 
among the most important elements in her life: "My education, family and country are 
the most important things in my life." As for Mohammed, he and his wife both decided to 
continue their educational studies, with the result that schooling became an important part 
of their marriage. "During that time," Mohammed said, "I worked, managed the store, the 
'house,' and studied, all together. Thank God that all these things motivated me to 
continue my studies, which I finished with honors, and I also acquired an advance 

Aseel's parents, however, who were both educated, drew a distinction between 
education and family life: they believed that education was more important than getting 
married. Aseel said, "My father' s views were extremely progressive. Before our return to 
Palestine, he would often be told by his fellow Palestinian refugee friends that it was time 
for me to get married. My father would reply that Aseel's education was primary and the 
rest would follow later." She also recalled how, "In my early childhood, my parents 
would teach me the importance of education and how one could achieve almost anything 
if one was sufficiently educated." Aseel's parents' insistence that their daughter make 
education and not marriage her priority points to another issue, namely, the challenge 
faced by women who want to complete their education, pursue a career, and raise a 


Only one participant spoke of the family as a source of conflict in the context of 
getting an education. Abed explained, "I left Palestine to study in Jordan. I was enrolled 
as an engineering student for one year. Later, I decided to study a different field. That 
was my own decision, which my family did not like at the beginning." It is significant 
that the conflict came not from Abed's decision to abandon his education, but simply to 
change his field of study. 


Primary and secondary education. 

All of the participants, with the exception of Ahmed, described their experience in 
elementary school and high school. Ahmed did recall that as a youth, he had to give up 
his music lessons: "I started to learn how to play the violin when I was twelve years old 
but I could not continue learning it because of my family financial situation. Violin 
classes were very expensive and my family could not afford it at that time." 

The eldest participant, Mohammed (age 44), spoke positively of his years at an 
elementary school in a refugee camp: "I was doing well in school. Our school was very 
small. We used to play, study, and spend all day time there." The only hardship that 
Mohammed recounted was due to economic circumstances. After the ninth grade, 
Mohammed had to change his primary school to another school which was in another 
camp: "I had to walk from to my house in to another school in another camp which was 
6-8 miles away. That was simply because I could not pay for transportation and because I 
was determined to get my education." 


Ghadeer, Nael, Rania, and Aseel all attended schools in refugee camps. Ghadeer 
studied at a local school in Gaza during the first Intifada. Nael was in primary school 
during the first Intifada: "The first Intifada took place when I was at the primary school. I 
studied until the third grade in the camp. Later, I went to another school for the fourth 
grade called the shelter school, and the UNRWA's (United Nations Relief and Works 
Agency) school. When I was in the fourth grade, the school was outside the camp." Rania 
also studied in a UNRWA school for girls. And Aseel attended camp schools while she 
was living in a refugee camp in Lebanon. 

Some of the difficulty of studying in the camp schools was due to overcrowding. 
Rania remarked, "It was not easy to study when you have to stay in a small crowded 
room for many hours. Each class room had around forty students." But the most 
disruptive circumstance for the younger participants was the Intifada. "School was not 
easy," said Ghadeer. "Students used to study a few weeks every semester. . . . The school 
would be closed most of the time because of the political situation." Nael also 
remembered that many schools were closed during the first Intifada. 

When Abed was a high school student, "The situation was difficult and in a city 
like Hebron it was not easy to go to school. The schools were closed for long periods of 
times and the main reason for that was the Occupation." Indeed, Abed left his school to 
find a job: "As a result of the school closings many Palestinian students left their schools 
to work and make money." Ghadeer also noted that "Many people have to leave school to 
work because of the financial situation in Palestine." Later, however, Abed returned to 
school and continued his education: "I was lucky and could return to school to continue 
my higher education." Aseel also spoke of interruptions to the curriculum when she was 


in Syria: "For the first few months I could not attend school. Around the camp, there was 
talk among the Palestinians of the martyrdom of our countrymen in Palestine. The death 
of every Palestinian would be observed as martyr's day in the camp." 

The violence of the Intifada extended to the schools themselves. Nael explained 
that while many schools were closed, others were a stage to many clashes between the 
Palestinian students and the Israeli solders. "I remember that when we used to go to 
school, we threw stones and as a result the Israeli solders would close the school. I 
remember that our school bags were full of stones rather than textbooks." Nael added, "In 
high school, my was a school where all the clashes happened. It was not a school! It was 
a daily demonstration." 

According to Rania, "School was not easy. The windows of the crowded 
classrooms would be shut almost all of the time so that we would not smell tear gas. 
Demonstrations used to take place near the school, so the boys would come and ask us to 
join them in the demonstration. My school was bombed and occupied twice by 
occupation forces." Even in Damascus, Aseel said, "We learned to deal with the effects 
of the war between Lebanon and Israel. When we would return home after school, we 
would make sure that the duct supplying cooking gas was shut, and that the windows 
would be left open to ensure protection from flying glass shards in the event of aircraft 
bombings by Israeli fighter planes." 

As a result of the fighting and disruptions, many students lost interest in school. 
Rania said that many students "did not want to study because they were already frustrated 
by the difficult Palestinian situation." But, she added, the hardships spurred other 


students to work harder: "Many others wanted to know as much as possible because they 
believed in the importance of what they were doing and the importance of education." 
Nael spoke from a different perspective, seeing the hardships themselves as educational: 
"In our school, we learned how to throw stones, how to struggle, how to resist, how to 
refuse the Occupation and we learned politics rather than ordinary subjects. That's how 
my friends and I studied." In other words, Nael saw his schooling as an alternative 
education in political struggle. 

Postsecondary education. 

Just as the political situation interfered with the education of young students, so 
too did it affect the choices of university-age students. Rania explained that she chose to 
attend her University "mainly because it was the nearest University to the camp." 
Reaching the Palestinian universities, especially the ones that were outside of Bethlehem, 
was very hard: 

I did not want to go through what my sister went through when she was studying 
at Al-Quds University in Jerusalem, where she had to leave home at sunrise to 
reach the university at 8 a.m. ... On the way to university, journeys of short 
distances stretch into hours because of the checkpoints and the Occupation. 

Rania added, "I wanted first to study medical science, but I couldn't study this field in 
Palestine, so I decided to study English Language and Literature at Bethlehem 

Abed, on the other hand, was able to go abroad to study: "I left Palestine to study 
in Jordan. I believe traveling outside Palestine to Jordan and Egypt has a positive effect in 


building my personality." After Rania graduated from Bethlehem University, however, 
she received a scholarship to continue her studies in the U.S., giving her the opportunity 
to broaden her horizons: "I am happy to be able to continue my studies. It is a great 
opportunity for me to discover a new place, new people and a new culture." 

It was not necessary to leave Palestine, however, for students to gain a new sense 
of independence. Mohammed said, "I believe that Birzeit University was one of the 
things that helped me to discover my individuality away from my family. It was a new 
experience, a different environment outside the refugee camp. At the university, I had the 
chance to meet new people and discover various ways of thinking." Mohammed had to 
change his major field of study after an accident damaged one of his arms. He eventually 
had the opportunity to travel to the U.S. and earn his Ph.D. 

While most of the participants went on to university after completing high school, 
Nael followed a different path. "I studied until the tenth grade. After that, I moved to an 
occupational school." As was true for many Palestinians, Nael was studying and working 
at the same time. "In the morning, I used to go to school, then to work in Israel, and to 
school again, then another job again, to work instead of my brother who was imprisoned. 
He used to work as a night guard. This situation lasted more than a year; work in the 
morning, school in the afternoon and work in the evening." During the invasion to the 
Bethlehem area in 2002, Nael was injured and was not able to continue to work in his 
field of study. But a local NGO offered him a position as manager of the computer lab in 
its educational center. As a result of his experiences working with children at the center, 
Nael decided to go back to school and become a teacher. 


Education as a Personal Value. 

As discussed above, all of the participants acknowledged that their families had 
instilled in them an enduring respect for education. The participants also indicated some 
of the ways in which they had come to value education in their own lives. Mohammed, 
Abed, and Rania all stated that the act of reading itself was important to them. 
Mohammed said, "I always read books about the importance of education, and I knew 
that knowledge was the way for development." Abed noted that academic reading was a 
source of pleasure: "I always enjoyed reading schoolbooks." And Rania explained how 
reading improved the quality of her life: "I always liked reading. In some stages of my 
life, I think that reading helped me escape the hard reality of the Palestinian situation and 
problems especially the Occupation." 

In addition, several participants spoke of education as a value that they wished to 
transmit to the next generation. Abed mentioned, as noted above, that he wants to teach 
his children to love education, thus passing on to them the respect for education that he 
inherited from his parents. Nael testified that his experience at the NGO center had 
shown him how important education was for the kids there: "Three months after working 
in the center; I started to realize the benefits that little children can get from the center." 
In fact, this experience led him to study to become a teacher himself. Indirectly, Rania 
expressed her gratitude to the older adults who had tutored her in workshops at her camp: 
"It was so inspiring to talk to old people and learn from their experiences during those 


Some participants cited the practical advantages of an education, namely income 
and mobility. Nael's training in electricity maintenance enable him to work in Israel: "I 
finished school and worked for a long time in Israel, nearly from the early nineties until 
the beginning of the 'second Intifada.' " Abed considered education to be the key to a 
better future: "Education was my only reinforcement and support for me and many other 
Palestinians who wanted to guarantee their future." He left Palestine to find a better 
opportunity for education and to live independently: "I believe in living an independent 
life. I left Palestine to study in Jordan." Aseel noted that her father, a dentist, and her 
mother, a kindergarten teacher, moved frequently before settling in Damascus, and that 
afterwards her mother returned to Lebanon to work as teacher and a writer of children's 
stories. Still, Aseel's father pointed out that the family's real wealth lay in education: 
"My father would tell us that since the family did not have enough money and did not 
own a house, the only thing that we had was our education." She added, "When I asked 
my parents to buy me something, they would say that I would get it only when I 
completed school." Mohammed's family attained a greater degree of prosperity on the 
basis of their education. When Mohammed's wife graduated and began working at Al- 
Quds University, her own income combined with her husband's to improve the family's 
financial situation. In turn, four years later, Mohammed and his wife decided to continue 
their schooling. 

Several participants linked their education to their sense of identity. Among the 
men, Abed drew a connection between focusing on his education after his father died and 
achieving "self-actualization." Mohammed said, "I believe that Birzeit University was 
one of the things that helped me to discover my individuality away from my family." 


Among the women, Aseel said, "My parents played a huge role in shaping my identity. In 
fact, it was my mother who became a University professor was my role model. . . . My 
inspiration was my mother who obtained a master's degree during the Israel -Lebanon 
war." Rania linked her educational goals to a larger sense of purpose and destiny: "My 
childhood dream was to study Medical Science so that I could help ill people and cures of 
their diseases. ... I always dreamed of becoming a great woman who will participate in 
changing the world and making it a better place for people to live." 

Finally, Rania pointed out that education is a continual process: "The more I 
learn, the more I realize how much I still need to learn and how much I do not know. 
That's why I want to work and continue further studies to help my country and my 
family." Indeed, all of the participants are likewise committed to continuing their 

Education as a Communal Force. 

Repeatedly, the participants spoke about education in a political context. This is 
not surprising, since most of them experienced disruptions in their education due to 
political conflict. Indeed, Abed asserted that "One of the goals of the occupation is to 
make kids leave their schools and to make Palestinians an uneducated population." And 
Ghadeer expressed a view held by many Palestinians when she claimed that the Nakba, 
"the catastrophe," happened because most Palestinians were not educated in 1948. 

Consequently, several participants stressed the importance of education in the 
struggle against the Occupation. Ahmed said, "Education was a very important element 


in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. I believe that education will help Palestinians build 
their country and show their identities; with our education we can build our country and 
fight the Occupation." Abed agreed: "I accept education as a truth that can be used to 
fight the Occupation." Ghadeer stated more forcefully that "Knowledge and education are 
our only weapons against the Occupation. ... I want every Palestinian kid to know 
everything about their homeland and to protect it with their education and with their 

The participants spoke of education not only as a means of resistance, but also as 
a way to build their own nation. Ahmed said, "I believe that education will help 
Palestinians build their country and show their identities." Both Aseel and Abed spoke of 
education as an investment in their country's future. Aseel's father told her that "The 
only thing that we had was our education, which we could invest in to free Palestine." 
Similarly, Abed said that "Education will be our only investment for the future." And as 
mentioned above, Rania explained that she wanted to "continue further studies to help my 
country and my family." 

Some of the participants indicated another way that education could have a 
political function: Palestinians could take steps to educate people from other nations 
about their situation. Rania recounted how, during her university time, "I worked as a 
volunteer in peace groups. I worked with internationals visiting Palestine and I 
participated in developing two photography books about Palestine and human rights." 
Photography had a huge influence on Rania' s life: "It was great to be able to show people 
what you think without having to say a single word. A good picture could reflect one's 
feelings and thoughts." Likewise, she spoke of filmmaking as a way to represent her 


people's experience: "It was amazing to see people's reactions when they saw the films 
we produced. The short films reflected the Palestinian reality in a very simple and 
interesting way." Ahmed expressed a desire to communicate Palestinian culture to a 
global audience: "I always try to spread awareness about Palestinian culture through 
films and music. I believe we should fight to protect our culture and to show it to the 
whole world." Ahmed said that he is studying music and filmmaking now because "I 
want to connect music and film together in order to provide evidence of the heritage and 
culture of the Palestinian people." 

Finally, some participants spoke of the ways in which education could foster 
resilience among their people. Aseel said that her mother encouraged her not only "to 
pursue higher education but also to develop resilience." She added that "Education 
played a major role in shaping my personality and in dealing with ways to overcome 
trauma." As noted above, Rania associated reading with being able to "escape the harsh 
reality of the Palestinian situation and problems especially the Occupation. I used to write 
about the things that I liked and I used to write poetry." Rania' s words suggest that 
education combined with the arts may contribute to resilience, and Nael made a similar 
point when speaking about his work with children at the NGO center. He explained: 

I was a child during the first Intifada and I knew how much these children needed 
to be looked after and how much they were suffering; the same way I suffered in 
the past when I was a child. I remembered the things I used to like and the things I 
used to do as a child which gave me the opportunity to work with those children. 

In his work, Nael found that drama was a particularly good educational tool that 
encouraged resilience through creativity: "Drama was an educational tool that children 
liked. In drama sessions, children had the opportunity to be creative through art, drawing, 


dancing and acting. The goal of the drama sessions was to keep the children safe and 
protected from the Occupation and to have a good life." Rania, however, used a form of 
therapy to aid children. She recounted how, as a teenager in the camp, she assisted a 
group of much older men whose aim was "to help children who were affected by the hard 
situation and the daily life in the camp to overcome trauma. We used to help children in 
speaking about their problems and trying to find solutions for those problems." 

Family and Community 

The theme of family and community support also emerged in the interviews. This 
is in keeping with the observation that "Social support, emotional ties with parents, and 
trust are considered essential in fostering children's resiliency against traumatic stress" 
(Punamaki et al., 2001, p. 257). Indeed, family has remained important to the 
participants, and even though they are all in the U.S. now, they keep in touch with their 
families and frequently call home. Ghadeer said that after she left Palestine to study in the 
U.S., she watched the news all the time in order to stay connected to her family and her 
community: "I listened to news every hour of the day; I listened to news more often 
because I wanted to stay connected with my family and my community." 

The participants' comments have been arranged in two main sections; family 
support and community support. Within the family section, subsections examine the 
composition of participants' families and their economic circumstances. Other 
subsections focus on the family as a site of political resistance, as a source of personal 
identity and values, and as an incubator of resilience. The section on community opens 


with the participants' observations on the difficulties of everyday life, followed by 
subsections on the community as a site of political resistance and as an incubator of 

Family Support 

Family composition. 

Of the seven participants, three came from small families: Ahmed has two sisters, 
one older and one younger; Abed has an older brother; and Aseel has an older sister. All 
four of the participants who came from large families were the youngest child in their 
family: Ghadeer, Nael, Rania, and Mohammed. Ghadeer referred to her ten older siblings 
as the most important people in her life. Nael described himself as "the youngest among 
eleven brothers and three sisters," while Rania has nine brothers and sisters. Being the 
youngest in a large family was a special status. Nael explained that "Because I was the 
youngest in the family, I was close to my nieces and nephews. They were closer to my 
age, and that played a major role in family unity for me, especially with my nieces and 
nephews." Rania said that one of her sisters always thought that Rania must be happy 
because she was the youngest: "It was partly true; being the youngest meant that I could 
learn from the experiences of others ." Yet Rania added, "Thank God I did not have 
younger brothers; not because it was so good to be the youngest, but because of the fear 
people in the camp felt for their children." As the youngest in the family, Rania was 
spared the experience of worrying over any younger siblings of her own. 


The participants all commented on the role that their parents played in their lives. 
Mohammed described the legacy that his father left for his family: "My father 
represented 'the folklore' because he was very old. He passed away in 1996 when he was 
110 years old. We — our family — did not inherit anything from my father. Our father died 
and left us the love we feel toward each other." Mohammed believes that his mother is 
the most important person in his life, and he spoke fondly of her: "She loves me so much. 
I kiss her hands and legs, and I trim her nails." 

Rania spoke of how her parents encouraged her to study. "My father became a 
refugee when he was 15 years old. He was the oldest in his family so he had to leave the 
school and work in order to help my grandfather in raising his children. . . . My father is a 
great father. He helped all of us to get our education, he showed us how to be helpful to 
our brothers and sisters." Her mother also encouraged Rania and her siblings to continue 
their education. 

Ghadeer believes that her father was the one who helped her to get her education: 
"My father tried his best to make us attend school and get a college education, and he 
sent me to study in Ramallah" She credited her mother with maintaining the family after 
her father died. "My mother took all the responsibly of taking care of us, especially after 
my father passed away. She planted the seeds of loving our country in all of us " Abed's 
father died when he was in the sixth grade, and he observed that "Losing a father at a 
very young age was not easy, especially in a community where the father plays a central 
role." But the loss of his father provided Abed with an opportunity for growth. Abed 
explained that "The son should represent his father even after he passes away. ... I used 
to go to social occasions to represent the family even though I was very young; that had a 


positive effect on my life because I was able to carry those responsibilities." Abed also 
noted that his mother played an important role in his life: "My mother played a central 
role and we also depended on ourselves in order to survive without a father." 

Ahmed recalled that his father, who was a teacher of Arabic, religion, and history, 
had a specific purpose in raising his children: "His goal was to keep his children's eyes 
open on their history and their occupied lands." Similarly, Nael described his mother as 
"a political activist," and he said that "My mother was very supportive of all of us. She 
suffered a lot, especially when she was trying to visit my brother and sister in the Israeli 
prison." By contrast, Nael's father, whom he described as a very strong and opinionated 
man, was against any political work. 

Among the participants, Aseel grew up in the least traditional family. Both of her 
parents were educated; her father was a dentist and her mother was a schoolteacher. After 
Aseel' s family moved to Syria, her mother returned to Lebanon to work as a 
schoolteacher and a writer of children's stories. As a result, Aseel' s father took on the 
duties traditionally associated with motherhood: "My father would take care of the daily 
necessities for me and my sister. My father would perform the roles of father and mother 
and he would cook and clean the house. This left a deep impression in the minds of both 
me and my sister. My father set a great example for us and he changed the way we 
looked at and experienced life." She added "My mother was my role model for surviving 
and coping. . . . We would miss our mother a great deal, so we would visit her in Lebanon 
in the weekends." 


In addition, participants who now have families of their own acknowledged the 
support of their spouses. Nael's wife helped him and encouraged him to study in the U.S. 
Likewise, Abed, who is raising three children with his wife, said, "My wife supports me 
in everything in our lives especially in continuing my graduate studies." And Mohammed 
and his wife, both of whom pursued graduate studies, provided each other with mutual 
support: "After I was married, I received emotional support from my wife. And I also 
supported her." 

Economic circumstances. 

All of the participants grew up in challenging environments. Abed alone did not 
grow up as a refugee, but in the crowded city of Hebron. He remembered that "compared 
to many families in Hebron we were a poor family, especially because we lost my father, 
who was our source of financial support. After my father passed away, my uncles took 
care of us by giving us some money for our basic needs." 

Ahmed grew up in a refugee camp, as did Rania. Her parents became refugees 
after the 1948 war, and years later their status was threatened as a result of the Palestinian 
uprising. "My father was a construction worker who worked many years inside Israel, but 
after the first Intifada started he lost his job." Her family lived in a small house near the 
main street. "All of us lived in a three-room house, every two or three of us shared the 
same mattress. The camp was very crowded and houses were very close to each other." 
Rania remembered the family's diet, too: "We ate the basics, we had chicken once every 
two weeks and beef once every few months. We used to eat a lot of rice and bread and 


Mohammed also commented on his family's diet: "I remember that we were very 
poor and we had meat once every two months. I remember that our lunch was 'hard 
bread' and an onion. I lived a little time in poverty and hunger, but my older brothers and 
sisters suffered more." His family endured inadequate housing: 

My family lived a few months in Jericho and then moved to live in a Refugee 
Camp between Bethlehem and Hebron, where the United Nations Relief and 
Workers Agency (UNRWA) provided them with tents. People had to live in tents 
during the hot summer and the freezing winter. Later, the UNRWA built small 
apartments for them. Each apartment . . . consisted of two rooms (2.5 x 3 meters 

He further explained, "The houses of the Camp used to be on one floor, in the past. But 
today, they are two and three floors. People build on top of the same houses because there 
is no more space in the camp." 

Nael and Ghadeer both recalled growing up in poverty. Nael said, "Like most of 
the refugees, my family lost everything after the Nakba. We were poor and lived in a tent 
for many years." Ghadeer' s family became refugees after the 1948 war. She lived in a 
camp in Gaza, and her family remained poor for years. But education helped them raise 
their standard of living. In particular, one of her brothers, who finished his graduate 
studies and now works in Dubai, is helping them financially. 

Yet education does not always translate into wealth. Aseel's parents, a dentist and 
a schoolteacher, fled Palestine for Lebanon and then Syria. She remembered that "Both 
our father and mother worked hard under trying circumstances to earn enough money to 
keep the family going." 

Family and political resistance. 

I mentioned above that Ahmed's father and Nael's mother had strong political 
opinions. In fact, all the participants except Abed commented on the impact of 
Palestinian politics on their families. Rania said, "Like all Palestinian refugees, most of 
the stories that I used to hear as a child were the stories of 'al-Nakba.' My father and my 
grand mother always talked about it. They told us about their lives before the Nakba — 
how they used to have a big house and much land. They were farmers and they enjoyed 
every day there." Mohammed's parents told him about the Nakba: "When my family left 
their village in 1948, they thought they would return in a few days. This is what 
Palestinian Refugees were told in 1948, and the reason why the 1948 Nakba happened 
was because Palestinians were not educated." Likewise, Nael said, "I grew up listening to 
the Nakba stories from my parents." Ahmed stated, "In their minds and hearts, my family 
carried Palestinian values, nationalism, and the pain of their 1948 catastrophe." For 
Ghadeer, stories of the Nakba included the story of how her parents became refugees and 
how they walked many miles when they were forced to leave their village: "My family 
left their village after the war of 1948 and walked, which was not easy. Two of my uncles 
were killed in the 1948 massacre." 

Consequently, the participants, many of whose educations were disrupted by the 
violence of the first Intifada, grew up with an acute awareness of the historical 
background to the politicization of their everyday lives. Ahmed's father ensured that his 
son did not forget his history: "My father wanted me to be connected with my land, 
language, and identity; those three things the Israelis tried to wipe out from Palestinian's 


minds." Likewise, Ghadeer said, "My family taught me to fight the struggles and the 
Occupation to survive." 

In addition, Ghadeer, Nael, Rania, and Mohammed, each the youngest in his or 
her family, had elder siblings who were politically active. Mohammed said, "Two of my 
brothers are political activists they did a lot of community work in our camp." Ghadeer, 
Nael, and Rania recounted the arrest of their siblings, and the consequences of that arrest 
for other members of their families. Ghadeer said, "One of my brothers was imprisoned 
by the Israelis for a long time, and we were not allowed to travel or get a travel permit to 
the West Bank or Israel." Many members of Rania' s family were imprisoned: "As a 
child, I did not remember my brothers. They were older than me, but [I did not get to 
know them] mostly because they were imprisoned. . . . Three of them were imprisoned 
for several years." Rania also mentioned that "One of the three rooms in our house was 
'closed' by the occupation after my brothers were imprisoned; we were not allow to open 
that room because the Israeli solders put concrete bricks on its windows and door." Nael 
described a harsher retaliation: "My family faced a difficult period of time when my 
brother and sister were imprisoned in 1983 because they were involved in political 
activities, so the occupation demolished our house." 

Family, identity, and values. 

All of the participants mentioned that they had grown up in a loving family 
environment. Abed said, "I grew up in a loving family," as did Rania: "I was lucky to live 
in a loving family." Several participants also spoke of the close ties among members of 


their families, and of the ways in which their families contributed to their growth as 
individuals and the formation of their identity. Nael remarked, "I always had a strong 
relationship with my sisters. My sisters had strong personalities because they were active 
in the political struggle. This stage of my life built my personality and taught me lots of 
things." Rania described a similar experience: "I have a very close relationship with my 
brothers, especially with my older brother who helped me in my education and helped me 
to be who I am today." Aseel said, "My parents played a huge role in shaping my 
identity." And the death of Abed' s father played a key role in his individuation: "The son 
should represent his father even after he passes away," Abed explained, and thus Abed 
forged his own identity by taking on the role of his father. 

Participants also spoke of the values they learned from their families. "For me, 
family is the source of my values and dreams," said Mohammed. Rania was grateful to 
her parents for her upbringing: "I am always proud of my parents, who did their best to 
raise their children with good values." Ahmed said, "I was raised to love my country, to 
love myself for being Palestinian, to know my history and culture, and not to forget the 
importance of my land and family." Indeed, given the acute political awareness of the 
participants, it is not surprising that all of them reported that patriotism was a value 
espoused by their families. Mohammed recalled, "My father taught us to respect the older 
brother and to help people in need. He was a religious person. He taught us the ethics of 
religion: Do not steal! Help others and be nice to others!" 

Among the values he learned from his family, Nael included "respecting the elderly, 
obedience, ethics, and the value of education, whether at home or in school." 


Indeed, the participants frequently noted the value of education as a value 
transmitted to them by their families. I have discussed the role of education in detail in 
the first part of this chapter (Education, 1. Family contexts). Here it is important to note 
that parents sought to make sure that their children went to university, even if they 
themselves had not managed to do so. Thus, although Ghadeer's and Rania's parents had 
not been able to complete their own education, they ensured that each of their many 
children attained a university degree. In Aseel's nontraditional family, she and her sister 
were taught that education was more important than getting married: "My father's views 
were extremely progressive. Before we returned to Palestine, he would often be told by 
his fellow Palestinian refugee friends that it was time for me to get married. My father 
would reply that Aseel's education was primary and the rest would follow later." 

Family as an incubator of resilience. 

It was Aseel who had the most to say about the family as a source of personal 
resilience. She explained that her mother, who eventually became a University professor, 
was the role model who "not only encouraged me to pursue higher education but also to 
develop resilience." She added, "The hardship faced by my parents had prepared them to 
handle any adversity, and I think both my sister and I were able to cope with the trauma 
of being uprooted from our place of birth because of the difficult conditions that we lived 
in as refugees." In detail, Aseel described the difficulties of daily life: 

In Lebanon, we moved from one location to another, before settling down in Ash- 
Sham (Damascus) in Syria, my sister and I attended school. We learned to deal 
with the effects of the war between Lebanon and Israel. When we would return 
home after school, we would make sure that the duct supplying cooking gas was 
shut and that the windows would be left open to ensure protection from flying 


glass shards in the event of aircraft bombings by Israeli fighter planes. For days 
on end, my family would go without basic necessities like electricity and water. 
Food was scarce and we had to resort to rationing. 

Aseel recounted another experience that reveals the dangers to which children 
were exposed: 

When I was ten years old, I had a Jordanian passport. On one occasion, my sister 
and I crossed over to the nearest Jordanian town across the Lebanese border to 
renew our passports. We were seized by Jordanian border guards, and our 
passports were confiscated and we were tortured. The Jordanians believed we 
were allied with the PLO and wanted to extract information on our suspected 
links with the organization. This was a very horrifying experience that led to the 
fear that I and my sister would never be able to see our parents ever again. My 
sister and I were detained by the Jordanians for three months, with minimal 
contact with our parents. 

Nevertheless, Aseel was strengthened by her ordeal: "The experience was horrifying, but 
I learned to cope with the circumstances, as my expectation and that of my parents was 
that regardless of the situation I had to stay strong and not display any weakness. I had 
begun to harden emotionally, to the extent that I did not allow myself to cry." Later, 
while serving with the Palestinian Red Crescent Society's emergency team in Ramallah, 
Aseel came to appreciate the ways in which she had been tested: "The toughness and 
strength of conviction that I had developed early in my childhood stood me in good stead 
to deal with crises and situations where I was in the midst of violent conflict." 

Aseel was not the only participant who learned to tolerate pain and suffering. Nael 

When we were children, we were told that we had to live with pain. You were in 
danger of being imprisoned or shot anytime. You had to learn how to live and 
survive because at any minute you could be killed. You had to depend on yourself 


because your family would not stay for you. So you should be independent and 
live with pain. These were the lessons we learned from life. 

Mohammed too stated that he learned from his father how to survive and live with the 
pain and never complain. 

As for Rania, she explained that she learned to be resilient from the example of 
her father who left school an early age in order to support his family. She also learned 
from her brothers and sisters how to work hard in order to achieve her dreams. Although 
she did not speak of pain and horrifying experiences, as did Mohammed and Nael, she 
echoed their sense of the world as a dangerous place. "The only feeling of safely I felt 
was when I was with my family," she said. "My parents tried their best to make me feel 
secure and loved." All the other participants agreed that their family provided them with 
a sense of safety in an environment full of hazards. 

Community Support 

Difficulties of everyday life. 

The challenge of living in a refugee camp or in a West Bank city like Hebron 
affected entire communities, not just individuals or families. The community provided a 
larger social context that could sustain and support its members; at the same time, the 
community also demonstrated its power through mechanism like peer pressure or the 
exclusion of those perceived to be outsiders. I begin this section by recounting some of 
the risks that confronted all members of each community. 


Mohammed stated a fact that was true for all the participants who had grown up 
in refugee camps: "The life in the camp is very difficult, the camp is very crowded and its 
streets are narrow, and people in the refugee camps lack the basic things they need for 
living." In addition to the everyday poverty of the camps, the participants recounted 
individual episodes of violence that they had been exposed to. Mohammed himself was 
arrested during the second Intifada, and his house was attacked and searched by the 
Israeli solders during the West Bank invasion in 2002. Nael's house was demolished and 
he was injured, and as a result of his injury he had to change his occupation. Aseel was 
forced out of her house in the middle of the night by Israeli solders who searched her 
house and destroyed many things in it. And Ghadeer told of how her school became a 
target for Israeli soldiers and one of her friends was killed. I discussed other ways in 
which the political situation interfered with the participants' schooling in the section on 
education, above (2. Schooling, Primary and secondary education). 

Rania thought that all the people who lived in the camps lacked a sense of safety 
in their community. "No place was safe. . . . During the nighttime, soldiers would be 
around the camp. One could hear their footsteps and the noise made by their dogs." Rania 
used to see children running through the narrow streets of the camp, looking for a refuge 
from these soldiers: "Children were in danger of being killed or imprisoned at any time. 
When a child left his/her house to go to school, his/her parents were never sure whether 
he/she would come back or not. . . My parents tried to their best to make me feel secure 
and loved," she said, but home was not a safe place either: "These soldiers with their 
huge guns would bang on the door of the house at any time to kill or imprison whomever 
they found. Everyone was in danger: men, women, children, and old people." 


Community and political resistance. 

Just as the participants learned certain values like patriotism from their parents 
and other family members, so did they also learn values from their fellow community 
members. All the participants indicated that they absorbed their values both from their 
families and from the community at large. Nael learned from his political fellows that he 
had to live so as to maintain his dignity as a human being: "There were other political 
values we learned and believed as refugees; you should return to your original village. As 
a human being, you should live in freedom and dignity and learn and dress well." Thus, 
even taking care of one's clothing and appearance was an act with political consequences, 
because it reflected an attitude of dignity in the face of the Occupation. 

The community's resistance to the Occupation found open expression in the 
violence of the first Intifada. The participants, who with the exception of Mohammed, 
were schoolchildren at that time, were encouraged to participate in stone throwing. 
Ghadeer said that she received community support through her participation in the first 
Intifada, which made her feel that she belonged to her community: "During the first 
Intifada, I and my friends, neighbors, and every kid I knew, used to throw stones at the 
Israeli soldiers, which made us feel satisfied with ourselves." Rania remembered that 
"Demonstrations against Israeli Occupation used to take place everyday, and young 
people were the ones who led these demonstrations." Young people took a lead in the 
violence, too: "Whenever we children saw [the Israeli soldiers], we would start throwing 
stones; the soldiers would then start to throw teargas, and then start shooting." Thus, by 


encouraging its children to provoke the Israeli soldiers, the community exposed them to 
tremendous risk. At the same time, however, the children were learning how to defend 
their community against the Occupation. For Abed, stone throwing became a personal 
form of resistance: "I was so angry because of the Occupation, because of what they did 
to my school and community and their bad reactions of shooting and killing, and for me 
throwing stones was part of expressing my anger." 

In the course of the fighting, many Palestinians were captured by the Israelis and 
imprisoned. Rather then breaking down the solidarity of the community, however, this 
action strengthened it, for the community greatly respected the people who were taken 
prisoner. Abed recalled, "When I was a child, I remember being envious and jealous of 
the people who had been arrested because the community saw them as heroes. I wanted 
to be like those heroes. The most important motivation for those prisoners to overcome 
their trauma was the community support." 

Nael's family received a dramatic expression of community support after his 
brother and sister were imprisoned for their political activities in 1983. Israeli solders 
demolished the family's house, but the community provided them with temporary shelter 
and then helped the family rebuild their house. Nael was a young child at the time, but he 
remembered the traumatic event: 

The occupation demolished our house with their bulldozers and people were 
screaming and cursing the soldiers. The people came and put up lights and there 
was a normal movement; people were going and coming, others were screaming, 
talking, and crying. It was like war — without order. It was a huge chaos and I was 
in the middle watching and did not know what was going on. I slept in the 
neighbor's house and the people of the camp came and built us a tent to live in, 
and the people of the camp volunteered to rebuild our house. 


Nael's new house was built in less than six months because of the community help: 
"Because of the help from the people of the camp, our new house was built in six months 
and was ready for furniture." Other participants offered further examples of community 
support for those who were made to suffer by the Occupation forces. 

Just as the community provided support for those who fell victim to the 
Occupation, however, so too did it exert a form of peer pressure on schoolchildren to 
participate in violence. As Abed explained, 

Throwing stones when I was teenager was part of the social pressure. Everybody 
was doing it and you had to be like them. If you did not throw stones your friends 
would consider you to be scared and anxious, and you were not a "man." It was 
part of being recognized by the group. I threw stones for two reasons, the social 
pressure and to fight the repression of the Occupation. 

Rania and Ghadeer also recalled throwing stones with friends. Ghadeer said, "I and my 
friends, neighbors, and every kid I knew, used to throw stones at the Israeli soldiers." 

Aseel experienced another dimension of community behavior. When her family 
returned to the West Bank after twenty years in Lebanon and Syria, she thought that they 
would be received into the Palestinian community: 

I was under the impression that my country would be free and that the returning 
Palestinians would be welcomed as heroes. But I was so disappointed that in the 
summer of 1998 — four years after my return to Palestine — I wanted to return to 
the familiar surroundings of the Lebanese town of Beirut. I also wanted to go 
back to Lebanon because of the deep-seated feeling that I was unwanted by my 
fellow Palestinians. I could sense a distance between them and me. Perhaps it was 
because of their perception that I was a foreigner with a Lebanese accent and way 
of life." 


Whereas the community's tight-knit nature led it to treat its prisoners as heroes, Aseel 
was treated as an outsider and received no hero's welcome. The four years that Aseel 
spent in Palestine after her return were difficult, not only because of the Palestinian 
people's coldness toward her, but also because of the Israeli presence in the Palestinian 
territories. She was especially lonely in the beginning: "The first few months after my 
return to Palestine were very difficult. I would look at my friends' [from Lebanon] 
photographs and weep, and I felt that I did not belong to this place." Aseel's initial 
sadness is all the more striking, given her description of the resilience that her family and 
her experiences in Syria and Lebanon fostered in her. 

Community as an incubator of resilience. 

Although Aseel found it hard to live in Palestine after her return, the experience 
nevertheless contributed to her resilience, especially when she was serving as a volunteer 
with the Palestinian Red Crescent Society. Abed pointed out that being part of the 
community tended to strengthen everyone's resilience: "The whole community was under 
the same siege. Everybody was supportive and empathized with anybody that was 
arrested or killed. The community played a central role in building resilience because of 
their support. Sometimes the social support was a motive for people to fight the 
Occupation." Abed's words suggest that there was a complicated relationship between 
the community as a source of peer pressure and as a source of resilience. Ahmed too 
drew a connection between fighting and resilience: "It was very important for me to fight 
the Occupation, which wanted Palestinians to feel helpless and hopeless, but I think 


Palestinians are the opposite." Other participants indicated other social structures within 
the community that strengthened their resilience. Ghadeer pointed to her friends and her 
school; Nael also mentioned his friends, as well as the community centers, like the one he 
worked at. He added that "the community helped me find a job after I was injured." 

The Arts 

Not all of the participants were equally interested in discussing the role of art and 
creativity in their lives. Those participants whose careers were directly involved with the 
arts had more to say on the subject: Nael uses art therapy in his work as a teacher, while 
Ahmed is studying music and filmmaking. Rania and Aseel each had a lifelong interest in 
various types of artistic expression, including music and drama. Ghadeer and 
Mohammed, however, spoke little about the role of the arts or creativity in their lives. 
And Abed distanced himself from the topic: "I am not an artist. Actually, I never used the 
arts. I prefer to live a 'serious' life." 

I begin by looking briefly at the place of the arts in Palestinian education, 
especially the education of children. Since Palestinian schools do not have the resources 
to devote to arts education in the classroom, children are not guaranteed exposure to the 
arts. In the second section, I consider how exposure to arts can play a role in encouraging 
children's creativity and resilience. In this section I rely heavily on Nael's observations, 
since his work as a schoolteacher has given him the opportunity to reflect on the place of 
art in the lives of children. Then I turn to the participants' accounts of their own 
experience with different forms of artistic expression, and finally, in two shorter sections, 


I summarize the participants' statements about the role of the arts in their own lives and 
in the national identity of the Palestinian people. 

The Place of the Arts in Palestinian Education 

Abed, who said that he was not an artist and that he preferred to live a "serious" 
life, did not have much exposure to the arts when growing up in Hebron. In general, he 
said, "The people of Hebron do not believe in arts or music: we did not have a Dabka [the 
national Palestinian folk dance] group or dance groups." Growing up in a refugee camp, 
Rania had a similar experience: "In general, people in the camp would not pay any 
attention to the importance of the arts, people had more responsibilities and duties to 
worry about." Both Abed and Rania noted that art was not a subject of instruction at their 
schools. Abed said, "In fact, there were no art classes in my school. People were not 
interested in the arts in the past." Rania' s school had art classes on the schedule, but not 
in practice: 

Back at the time when I studied at the primary school, art class which was one 
hour a week was nothing more than a waste of time. . . . When I was a young 
student at the UNRWA school in the Aida Refugee Camp, we did not have any art 
teachers. . . . The art teacher used to be the Arabic or history teacher who will tell 
us to do whatever we wanted instead of art. . . . Students used to study during the 
art class, which was one hour a week. 

Nael summed up the situation of the children he worked with at the center: "There were 
no [artistic] activities in their schools or in their houses. In their houses, children faced 
social problems, and the streets were full of politics, and the school only cared about 
academic education. That led the children not to have any opportunity to be creative." 


Several participants pointed out that economic concerns also limited their access 
to the arts. Rania liked to draw and to paint, but she resorted to drawing more frequently: 
"Drawing was more accessible to me than painting because it was cheaper. I could draw 
with my pencil on my notebook, any time I wanted." Ahmed and Aseel had similar 
stories of disappointment related to their musical training. Ahmed explained, "When I 
was twelve years old, I started to play the violin, but I could not continue learning the 
violin because of my family's financial situation, because violin classes were very 
expensive and my family could not afford it at that time." Similarly, Aseel said, "When I 
was fourteen years old, I started taking piano lessons, but my family could not pay the 
fees because of their poor financial condition." 

Nael explained how the center he worked at provided the children with 
opportunities to experience the arts that they did not receive at school. Volunteers at his 
center served as the children's art teachers: "In the center were many international 
volunteers who worked with children on art, drawing, singing, and dancing. One of them 
was a French or British volunteer artist and painter who came to the center and asked 
how he could help the children. I suggested drawing the camp and the issues of the 
refugees on the walls of the camp." Nael himself found that theater activities were 
particularly effective in engaging the children at the center, and he started a drama group. 
"Drama was an educational tool that children liked. In drama sessions, children had the 
opportunity to be creative through art, drawing, dancing, and acting. The goal of the 
drama sessions was to keep the children safe and protected from the Occupation and to 
have a good life." 

Children and the Arts 

Nael's interest in using drama to improve the lives of his students may have its 
roots in his own childhood. He spoke in detail about the imaginative games that he played 
with other children: 

As children, our favorite game was "Israeli soldiers and Arabs." There were other 
games which we used to play; but we liked this one and preferred to play it. This 
was not just a game; it was more serious than a game. Whoever played as a 
soldier was an "Israeli soldier" and the Arabs were the "Palestinians" and it was 
like a demonstration. The children who played "soldiers" were very serious. If 
they captured an "Arab" during the game, they would take it so seriously that they 
would put the "Arabs" in a "pretend prison," beat them, and interrogate them. If 
an "Arab" caught a soldier, it was a big victory because the soldier would be in a 
bad situation. So even though it was just a game, we took it very seriously. We 
used to play this game and throw stones. We played it in the streets. We used 
sticks as guns that would be used by "the soldiers." If you were an "Arab" in the 
game you . . . would use stones and little things. We used to spend most of our 
time in the street. I used to play as an "Arab" because the game was very serious 
and it was a challenge as if we were playing in a championship, where at the end 
you would get a trophy or medal. 

The nature of this game indicates just how deeply children's lives were permeated by the 
violence of the first Intifada. In their play, the children were dramatically reenacting the 
activities of their older siblings. Ahmed and Rania had similar recollections. 

Aseel explicitly traced her interest in drama back to her childhood, and like Nael, 
her imaginary world was colored by the contemporary political situation: 

My interest in plays and theatre started when I was eight years old. I would often 
dream of the story, "Little Red Riding Hood," in which I visualized myself in the 
role of Little Red Riding Hood without the scary presence of the animal. This was 
no simple dream that an 8-year-old child would dream. The story itself had its 
own significance in the context of the occupation and subjugation of Palestinians 
(Little Red Riding Hood) by the Israelis (wolves). 


The games that Nael recalled reproduced the real-life conflict in the streets. In Aseel's 
case, she rewrote the story of "Little Red Riding Hood" as a way of imagining a peaceful 
solution to the violence of everyday life. The stories told by Nael and Aseel indicate that 
children exposed to conflict will reproduce that conflict in their imaginations, but that 
they can also use their creative powers to imagine a world in which the conflict does not 

Nael reported that at first it was difficult for the children to express themselves at 
all: "The children of the camp were far from art and art subjects were very difficult for 
them to study. Children had huge energy and this energy needed to be arranged so that 
they could use it in the best way they could." Furthermore, said Nael, "It took us some 
time until children's parents felt safe and trusted the center. The parents then started to 
send their children to the center to break the obstacle of shyness and mistrust that they 
felt." He added, 

At the beginning, it was difficult for children because they were not used to 
expressing their feelings through painting and drawing. So, we explained to them 
the importance of using drawing to express themselves. It took the children 
sometime to get used to art and to enjoy it. That was by challenging their feelings 
of shyness to enjoy art. 

Eventually, the children responded positively to Nael's encouragement. He discovered 
that "The children liked art and drama. At the beginning, they were shy. But a few weeks 
later, they started to realize the importance of these subjects. They were waiting for the 
day of art or the day of drama in the center." 

In his work at the center, however, Nael discovered that it was not easy to lead the 
children to express themselves in ways that did not allude to the ongoing violence. 


Children's drawings and stories were full of stones, soldiers or fighters, which 
was a challenge for us, because we wanted them to draw other things rather than 
shooting, blood, and guns, because we believed that there are other good things in 
life. . . . Sometimes we made the children draw a flower, a house, or any other 
thing rather than a gun or a bulldozer. But that was very difficult. Some children 
used to draw a flower, a sun, or a tree, but they used to draw all other things as 

The art therapists who came to work at the center experienced the same difficulty: 

They worked with the children to make them draw other things rather than 
political images. But they could not do it. They tried to ask the children to draw 
something to symbolize happiness. The question was, "Why did the children draw 
these pictures?" The answer was that this is what happens and this is what the see 
in their daily lives. All that those children saw was soldiers and blood and all what 
they heard was shooting and attacks. Occupation was in their lives every day. So 
if a child made a drawing without a soldier, his/her drawing "would not be real." 

Thus, the children preferred to make the hazards of daily life part of their creative 

As it turned out, the children were eager to talk about their real-life experiences as 
well as draw them. The volunteer artist mentioned above proposed a form of 
collaborative storytelling: "He suggested that we could make children tell their stories 
and the stories of their lives and then draw them. The children started telling their stories, 
what they had heard from their parents about their lives in the camp and how they 
became refugees." In a similar project, some older children produced an illustrated book 
on the basis of their experience. Nael recounted, "One of the art activities that we did 
with the children was to create a storybook called 'The Boy and the Wall.' It was made 
by children aged between twelve and sixteen. It was painted using collage techniques. 
The children were excited to write a story because it represented their lives and their 


daily situation." Rania also had success in using narrative-based art to encourage children 
to express themselves. She said, "I taught young children to write about their lives and to 
create short films. ... I felt that children expressed themselves better through art and that 
they enjoyed it. . . . The children were also proud of their achievements." 

Nael and the volunteers were aided in their efforts by other artists and art 
therapists who came to work at the center: "Many artists, social workers, and 
psychologists, especially from the Arab Society Hospital, came to the center and used the 
arts as a way for therapy. They used storytelling and free activities to make children 
express their feelings." Overall, the results were positive. "We always noticed that art left 
a positive impact on the educational and social lives of these children," said Nael. "That 
led the parents of these children to encourage them to participate in the activities of the 
center also, because of the political situation and the psychological stress that these 
children faced. This gave many psychological organizations the opportunity to work in 
the camp on psychological issues, especially through art. Art became part of these 
children's lives ." 

In the long run, Nael noticed that the children's' exposure to the arts helped 
facilitate creativity: 

The most notable change was the children's involvement and love for the arts. 
Before that it was difficult for them to express themselves. But later, they became 
braver and they started to ask questions of "why" and "how"! The arts and drama 
were reasons to create creativity in these children. Children translated their ideas 
into art, which gave them the opportunity to express themselves. 

As a result of their activities at the center, children learned new ways to express their 
thoughts and feelings about their lives and their personal experiences. 


Forms of Artistic Expression 

The adult participants discussed their involvement in several forms of artistic 
expression. Aseel was the only one to mention needlework: "I involved myself in 
learning vocational activities like sewing and embroidery." Rania had the most 
experience with visual arts, such as drawing, painting, and photography. Several 
participants had practiced various forms of narrative-based art, including writing and 
storytelling, filmmaking, and drama. And all of the participants were familiar with music, 
folksongs, and dance. 

Drawing, painting, and photography. 

As I mentioned above, Rania liked to draw and to paint, but usually she drew, 
"because it was cheaper." "I and my friends used to draw beautiful pictures which 
impressed the teachers all the time," she said. In her drawings she imagined a peaceful 
environment: "I used to draw my dreams of a beautiful country, huge streets, green trees, 
and a bright full moon." Rania also recounted how, at work camps, "I and my friends 
used to make wall murals around the camp. A number of these murals represented the 
villages which the people of the camp were originally from. People were very happy to 
see their villages being remembered by younger generations, even though they were not 
able to reach these villages." Thus, Rania and her friends were supplying the illustrations 
for people's memories of their home villages. This recalls Nael's stories about the 
visiting artist who drew pictures to illustrate the stories that the children told at the center, 


as well as the illustrated book they produced, "The Boy and the Wall." Aseel was also 
interested in drawing and painting. 

Both Nael and Aseel were interested in photography, too. Rania said that 
photography had a huge influence on her life: "It was great to be able to show people 
what you think without having to say a single word; a good picture could reflect one's 
feelings and thoughts." She had the opportunity to participate in four photography 
workshops. "I took photos that reflected Palestinian lives. In addition, I helped in 
translating and preparing the final photos which were exhibited in many countries all 
around the world. In the fourth photography project, I took photos about my dream and 
nightmare. Using two images, I could tell the world what my hopes for the future were 
and what my fears were." 

Writing and storytelling. 

Many of the participants practiced some form of writing. Mohammed kept a 
journal, as did Ghadeer, who also wrote poetry. Rania wrote poems as well, and so did 
Abed, who had stated in his interview, "I am not an artist." On the whole, though, the 
participants did not speak in detail about their own writing projects — Rania simply said, 
"I used to write about the things that I liked." 

Both Rania and Nael, however, as mentioned above, were interested in 
encouraging children to practice writing and storytelling. Rania said, "I taught young 
children to write about their lives and to create short films" In his work at the center, 


Nael led activities in which children told their stories and they or someone else illustrated 


Nael and Rania also shared an interest in film, along with Ahmed, who came to 
the U.S. to study filmmaking. Nael enjoyed going to the cinema, while Ahmed practiced 
digital storytelling and Rania made her own films. Rania described the first short film she 
made: "[It] was about my experience with Israeli checkpoints. It was a combination of 
music, images, and sound. I was very proud to be able to create a whole film out of 
nothing. I also had the chance to know many people and make many friends. When the 
films were first screened, I felt that the people we knew were very proud of us." Her film 
reached a wider audience as well: "My film was shown in many countries all around the 
world. . . . When internationals watched my film, they said that it was very creative and 
that I could express the Palestinian's suffering through it." Rania also taught children how 
to make their own films. 


In addition to the cinema, Nael liked the theater "very much." Although he did not 
make films, he began acting and found that it was a good way to relieve stress. He started 
a drama group at the center. He explained, "I liked acting. So I started training a group of 
children to do a political play called 'The Birds.'" 


As noted above, Aseel was eight when she first took an interest in plays and 
theatre, imagining herself as Little Red Riding Hood. She assigned a political 
significance to her rewriting of the traditional story without its villain, the wolf, which 
she associated with the Israelis. Two years later she made her acting debut: 

By the time I was ten, I had taken part in a political play [Sarhan, Ya Sarhan, 
Let 's Go to the Mountains, by Tawfiq Ziad]. That play played a big part in my life 
and some of the lines of the dialogues still resonate with me. In this play the 
mountains may signify the refuge for young Palestinian freedom fighters, who 
would escape to the mountains as a gesture toward joining forces with rebel 
groups in their hideouts. I was Salman's sister, who suffered torture and abuse in 
the hands of the Israeli soldiers during a late-night raid. I still remember a scene in 
which the Israeli soldiers dragged me by my hair, assaulted me, and then left me 
hanging from the ceiling. 

Whereas Aseel took care to omit the violence from her version of "Little Red Riding 
Hood," in this play she took on the role of someone who was tortured by the Israelis. 

Rania also started acting when she was very young. "At school, we used to write 
short plays and act all the time. Later, in high school, students formed a drama group. We 
used to practice all the time." Rania and her friends continued to write plays. "We wrote 
two plays, one in Arabic and the other in English. There was a drama competition that 
was held by the Palestinian Ministry of Education in 2003. There, we won the prize for 
best theater work in English and third place in Arabic drama. We were very proud of our 

When Rania studied at Bethlehem University, she joined the drama club, where 
she used to practice once a week. Later, she performed at Bethlehem University and Al- 
Quds University, and in the cities of Bethlehem and Ad-Duha. She said, "I enjoyed 
playing the role of the strong Palestinian man who cared for his family, the young man 


who learned difficult lessons through life, and the young girl who strongly faced old 
culture, the university system, and the Occupation." 

Music, folk songs, and dance. 

All of the participants enjoyed listening to music. Abed started to listen to music, 
especially English music, when he was a teenager: "I could remember that I started 
listening to foreign music — especially Madonna — for a short period of time, and then it 
stopped because of the Intifada." The participants all mentioned the traditional 
Palestinian folk songs that they learned in their youth. "At a tender age," said Aseel, "my 
way of thinking had been transformed to the point where I would listen and memorize 
Palestinian national songs." Nael, Aseel, and Ahmed used to listen to tradition folk songs, 
and Abed mentioned the part that folk songs played in "raising the Palestinians' spirits 
and self-confidence" 

Folk songs were often a featured part of performances of the traditional 
Palestinian dance, the Dabka. Abed said that there was no Dabka group in Hebron, in 
keeping with that city's general disinterest in the arts. But other participants had 
participated in Dabka troupes. While living in Lebanon, Aseel belonged to such a group: 

As a child, I participated in a variety of cultural group experiences. I was a 
member of a Dabka group whose members were comprised of Palestinians of all 
ages who staged performances in parts of Lebanon. The troupe members would 
organize the performances of ballads and other songs and traditional folkdances 
whose themes would often be about the Palestinian nation and its liberation from 
the Israeli yoke. 


Rania knew the dance, too, which was one of her favorites. "I can dance the Dabka," she 
said, "but I have never performed in front of people. People say that girls should not 
dance in public. This is cultural. However, young girls do. But it is difficult for them to 
continue doing so when they get older. That's because it is shameful for people here, for 
boys and girls to dance together." Nael encountered this attitude toward gender roles 
when he began working at the center: "It was difficult to find girls to participate in the 
Dabka [traditional Palestinian dance] or other art subjects. That was because of the social 
situation. It took us some time until children's parents felt safe and trusted the center." 

Several participants learned to play musical instruments, either as a child or as an 
adult. Ahmed's family supported his interest in performing. He said, "When I was a 
young child, my family encouraged me to learn music. When I was seven years old, I 
learned how to play the drum. I used to play Arabic music and listen to traditional 
Palestinian songs." Ahmed's favorite musical instrument was the oud, the Middle Eastern 
ancestor of the Western lute. When he was twelve years old, he started to play the violin, 
"but I could not continue learning the violin because of my family's financial situation, 
because violin classes were very expensive and my family could not afford it at that 
time." Aseel had a similar experience: she started to study the piano when she was 
fourteen, but her family could not afford lessons. When Aseel grew up, however, she 
began taking flute lessons: 

I could finally fulfill my desires to learn an instrument after I returned to Palestine 
in 1994. 1 visited the local conservatory or a school for the performing arts in 
Ramallah. I saw some of the pupils rehearsing "Swan Lake," for which one of the 
accompanists was playing the flute. I told the instructor that I was interested in 
learning to play the flute. That was the beginning of my initiation in learning to 
play the flute. 


Rania, too, began taking music lessons as an adult. "I enjoyed the feeling of music and 
wanted to continue learning music. Recently I started to learn to play violin." 

Personal Identity and the Arts 

Several of the participants discussed how their interest in the arts was linked to 
their development as individuals. They also frequently described how their own artistic 
activity could serve as a safety valve or a relief from stress. Thus, artistic expression 
became a way of developing resilience. 

Nael described his first encounter with playacting as a transformative moment in 
his life. He was able to overcome his fear of public speaking: "I started acting in a play 
and I was the main character. I broke through my fear. I could stand and speak in front of 
an audience. The first time I spoke in front of an audience was during the play of 'Abu al- 
Sukkar.' It was a huge step. It moved me from fear to standing and acting in front of 
people." For Rania, theater activity and filmmaking helped to build her self-esteem. She 
spoke of the pride she took in winning play writing competitions, and likewise, after she 
finished her first film, she "was very proud to be able to create a whole film out of 
nothing." Aseel also said that the arts had provided her with opportunities for personal 

For some participants, the role of the arts in personal growth continued into 
adulthood. Nael's decision to become a teacher allowed him to put his interest in drama 
and other forms of artistic expression to work in a new context. Abed, who for many 


years had led a "serious" life, reading only books on education, history, and politics, said 
that he recently "started to read stories, especially the famous Arab and Palestinian 
novels." Rania had written plays, made films, and taught children to write stories, and she 
decided to study music intensively; as mentioned above, she chose to study the violin. 
And Aseel seized the opportunity to study the flute. 

All of the participants identified some way in which they were able to escape 
from the stresses of daily life and build or renew their resilience. Mohammed used 
meditation as a technique for calming himself: "I used to spend time in Mother Nature or 
alone in my room to find solutions to my problems." But the others cited artistic 
expression as a particularly effective method of dealing with stress. Rania said that "My 
friends and I used to act just for fun. We enjoyed it and we thought it was a great relief." 
She also stated, "I always liked reading. In some stages of my life, I think that reading 
helped me escape the hard reality of the Palestinian situation and problems especially the 
Occupation." Nael explained that acting in the theatre was "a way to unload the stress." 
He added that "Before I started to use drama, I used to smoke or create trouble with my 
family, especially when I got angry. I had a problem in unloading this negative energy. 
But after I started using drama, things changed and my energy became positive." Aseel 
likewise said that "Acting in theaters and plays was an excellent means to give vent to 
pent-up emotions." For Ghadeer, writing was her preferred way to relieve tension: 
"Writing was the way that I used to control my anger and frustration." She wrote 
frequently when under stress, keeping a journal and composing poetry. 

Ahmed and Aseel found consolation in music. "When I am angry or sad," said 
Ahmed, "I always play music, which always helps me to feel better. It helps me to 


deepen my resistance." For Aseel, studying the flute "helped me to calm myself down in 
moments of crisis. In such situations, I would enjoy being with myself and playing the 
flute, rather than talking to people. I developed skills for improvising to express my state 
of mind." She added that "For me, music was a relief. I would feel relaxed even when I 
blew into the flute without actually playing it or when holding the flute in my hand. It had 
become an inseparable companion. It was the only thing people never complained about." 
Aseel spoke more graphically about how music helped her to overcome her trauma: 

I would often go without sleep, the nightmares of "the haunting eyes of scared 
children" returning to me night after night. I felt so helpless that I could do 
nothing at all for the traumatized children. Often times, I would find myself 
weeping uncontrollably. I gradually overcame the trauma, but in the process 
detached myself from the daily incidents of violence and abuse. I would sooth 
myself by playing the flute. 

For Aseel, music provided the necessary pathway toward resilience. 

Palestinian Identity and the Arts 

All of the participants agreed that the arts played an important role in shaping and 
maintaining Palestinian cultural identity. The murals that Rania and her friends prepared 
in the work camps reminded the camp residents of the villages where they had previously 
resided, thus preserving the memory of Palestinian life and culture before the Occupation. 
Ahmed said that he plays music that reflects his feelings, identity, and culture: "I always 
play music that reflects what I feel, and through that I show others who the Palestinians 
are and how beautiful our music is. . . . For me, the music of the oud reflects the Arab's 
musical and cultural history." More generally, he said, "The goal of any composer is to 


reflect the life of people, their culture and identity." Thus, Ahmed saw the dissemination 
of Palestinian culture as an imperative: "I tried to spread awareness about Palestinian 
culture through films and music. I believe that we [Palestinians] should fight to protect 
our culture and to show it to the whole world." Rania took pride in the fact that her film 
about her experiences at Israeli checkpoints was shown around the world: "When 
internationals watched my film, they said that it was very creative and that I could 
express the Palestinian's suffering through it." For Rania, filmmaking was a way to 
cultivate awareness of Palestinian culture, but also of the political situation in Palestine. 

Other participants made a similar connection between cultural expression and 
political identity. Abed stated that "The arts are a way of resistance. . . . Writing on the 
walls, listening to the national songs, and poetry [help in] raising the Palestinians' spirits 
and self-confidence" Aseel recalled that at the Dabka performance in which she 
participated, "The troupe members would organize the performances of ballads and other 
songs and traditional folkdances whose themes would often be about the Palestinian 
nation and its liberation from the Israeli yoke." For Ahmed, music did not need words to 
express a political message: "When I play Palestinian and Arabic music, I feel myself 
fighting the Occupation." 


The interviews indicate that the participants identified several sources of 
resilience in their lives. Those sources include education, as well as family and 
community support; the participants' families invariably stressed the value of education. 


Several of the participants described in detail how their artistic activities — visual arts, 
music, or theater — were another important source of resilience, but they did not indicate 
that their families promoted the arts as a value. The following chapter discusses the 
results in light of the literature on resilience, noting some patterns and general trends that 
emerge when the results of this study are placed in the broader context of research on 

Chapter 5: Discussion 

This study is the first to examine the role of the arts in building resilience in the 
Palestinian community. Other studies have looked at the use of expressive arts therapy as 
a treatment for trauma in Palestine (Abu Sway et al., 2005; Al-Ajarma and Schechter, 
2007; Al-Krenawi, 2007), but they have not considered whether participation in the arts 
can build the resilience of Palestinian youths. There has been little or no consideration of 
the role of the arts in strengthening the coping mechanisms of Palestinians experiencing 
trauma arising out of war and other forms of violence. Indeed, there is little literature on 
the use of the arts in building resilience in general (cf. Gregerson, 2007). Thus, the 
broader question this study addresses is whether artistic activity in general, as well as 
expressive arts therapy in particular, may serve as a form of preventative medicine that 
increases resilience, and not just as a treatment for trauma. The study also contributes to 
the study of culturally specific aspects of resilience by its focus on Palestinians (cf. 
Nguyen-Gillham et al., 2008; Ungar et al., 2007). Overall, the study provides a glimpse 
into the relationship between war and violence-related trauma and the coping 
mechanisms that subjects employ to deal with it. 

The literature on resilience identifies several factors that contribute to resilience. 
Altawil (2008) summarized the factors that may protect children from trauma or help 
them recover from a traumatic experience. Primary among those factors are social 
support systems, which include family (cf. Mackay, 2005; Simon et al., 2005), friends, 
the larger community, and, for children and youths, the school system. In addition, 
Altawil (2008) identified cultural belief systems, either political or religious, as sources 


of resilience. In particular, "active engagement in or ideological commitment to political 
struggle can increase resilience" (Altawil, 2008, p. 45). Peres et al. (2007) also noted the 
importance of religious beliefs in promoting resilience, and suggested that such beliefs 
helped to create a sense of coherence in the believer's understanding of traumatic events. 
Many of these factors emerged explicitly or implicitly in the course of the interviews. In 
addition, the respondents cited their involvement in artistic activities as sources of 
strength and resilience. 

In the sections that follow, I will present the results of the study as a whole by 
first reviewing and answering the three research questions identified at the beginning of 
the study. Then I discuss some of the implications of the study for the use of the arts in 
fostering resilience. In the third section I note some limitations of the present study, and 
in the last section I describe a few ways that future research on the topic of resilience and 
the arts in Palestine may proceed. 

Review of Research Questions 
This study began by posing three specific questions: 
Question #1: What are the sources of resilience for Palestinians? 
Question #2: What is the role of family, community, and education in building resilience 

in the Palestinian community? 
Question #3: What role do the arts play in building resilience for individuals in societies 

experiencing violent conflict, especially among Palestinians? 
I will answer each of these questions in turn by drawing on the evidence of the seven 
open-ended interviews, in which the respondents discussed several sources of strength 


and support that had sustained them while growing up in the West Bank or in refugee 
camps. Then, I will discuss some sources of Palestinian resilience that have been 
mentioned in the research literature but did not come up in the interviews, namely sports 
activities and religion. 

Sources of Resilience for Palestinians 

The chief sources of resilience named by the respondents were (1) family and 
community support; (2) education; and (3) artistic activity. These are discussed in more 
detail in the following two subsections. In this subsection I discuss a source of resilience 
that was mentioned by several researchers and whose influence is evident in the 
participants' discussions of family/community support, education, and the arts: namely, 
political activity and participation in the Intifada itself. 

It is certain that the Intifada causes psychological trauma. Garbarino and Kostelny 
(1996) identified the violence of the Intifada as a direct source of psychological harm to 
children and adolescents. They noted also that the arrest and imprisonment of family 
members accused of participating in the uprising had adverse effects on children and 
youths, and in particular boys, who were deprived of contact with role models. A 
peaceful resolution to the struggle would greatly reduce the risk of psychological trauma 
for young Palestinians. 

At the same time, however, researchers have recognized that cultural belief 
systems, whether political or religious, are a source of resilience, and the Intifada itself 
may be thought of as the violent expression of a political ideology. Altawil (2008) wrote 
that "Direct evidence from . . . Palestine . . . shows that active engagement in or 


ideological commitment to political struggle can increase resilience" (p. 45). Altawil also 
suggested that "Ideological support for children living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip 
may buffer some of the stress of war" (p. 54). Similarly, Barber (2001) found that 
participation in the Intifada did not, in fact, pose a threat to general psychological well- 
being; instead, "Intifada involvement was positively related to religiosity and family 
values" (p. 276). Barber explained that participation in a politically meaningful and 
culturally esteemed struggle provided a source of meaning in the lives of Palestinian 

As the participants in this study spoke about their families, their experience in 
school, and their artistic activity, they frequently made comments that reflected a high 
degree of political commitment in their family members, in their peers at school, and in 
their own artistic activity. Thus, none of these sources of resilience can be detached from 
the larger political context of Palestinian identity and the ongoing struggle against the 
Occupation. In the following paragraphs I will point out how political ideology permeates 
and reinforces the other sources of resilience. 

Family, Community, and Education as Sources of Resilience 
Family and community. 

Despite the trauma arising out of the intense political situation in Palestine, a wide 
cross section of the Palestinian population is still able to cope with the violence and the 
resulting traumatic experiences. A key variable that researchers have identified is the role 
of the family and individual family members in overcoming trauma. Surveying the 
factors that may prevent or alleviate trauma in children, Altawil (2008) stated that social 


support is key, and that family is an essential source of support: "Strong ties among Arab 
families appear to shield family members from incidents that otherwise might be 
experienced as disastrous" (p. 40). In their study of Palestinian refugee children living in 
Lebanon, Serhan and Tabari (2005, p. 47) remarked that "Palestinian refugees have 
strong family ties. Children and adolescents feel that they can depend on their families, 
both nuclear and extended. . . . [They] are especially confident of their parents' love and 
care, and appreciate what they do for them even when they cannot afford most of their 
children's demands." Punamaki et al. (1997) reported that research among Palestinians 
pointed to the fact that parental and maternal love, intimacy, and wise disciplining 
enhanced children's resiliency through increased creativity and cognitive capacity. 

All of the participants spoke of their families as a constant source of support. In 
every case, the participants noted that their families had instilled in them the value of 
education, and so there is an organic connection between the resilience gained from 
family support and the resilience gained from education. At the same time, parents 
schooled their children in the recent history of the Palestinian people, forming their 
political consciousness. Rania, Mohammed, Nael, Ahmed, and Ghadeer all referred to the 
stories of the Nakba they heard from their elders. Ahmed recalled that his father, who 
was a teacher of Arabic, religion, and history, had a specific purpose in raising his 
children: "His goal was to keep his children's eyes open on their history and their 
occupied lands." Nael described his mother as "a political activist." 

The participants also absorbed political values from their older siblings. Ghadeer, 
Nael, Rania, and Mohammed had elder brothers and sisters who were politically active, 
and several of them spent time in prison. Thus, all of the normal channels of support that 


operate within a family — including the support that parents provide for their children, and 
the support that siblings provide for one another — were transmitting and reinforcing a 
sense of history and an ideological resistance to the Opposition. The newer research that 
concentrates on family resilience, as opposed to individual resilience, indicates that 
families that share value systems have an increased level of resilience (Mackay, 2005). 
Mackay (2005) referred to value systems that may correspond to a religious or spiritual 
outlook, but the interviews indicate that family resilience may also be fostered by a 
common set of political or ideological beliefs. 

Community support is another source of social support that can mitigate the 
damage of a traumatic event. Nguyen-Gillham et al. (2008) found that "within a 
Palestinian context, suffering and endurance have to be interpreted at both an individual 
and collective level.... Resilience is (re)constituted as a wider collective and social 
representation of what it means to endure" (p. 292). For children, school offers a 
particularly important network of social support (Altawil, 2008). The interviews showed 
that just as familial resilience was colored by political beliefs, so too was the resilience 
communicated by the community grounded in collective resistance to the Occupation. 

The community's treatment of political prisoners is a good example of the 
reinforcement of community -based resilience by political values. Instead of breaking 
down the solidarity of the community, the capture and imprisonment of Palestinians 
strengthened it, for the community greatly respected the people who were taken prisoner. 
As a child, Abed envied the prisoners "because the community saw them as heroes. I 
wanted to be like those heroes. The most important motivation for those prisoners to 
overcome their trauma was the community support." Abed's statement draws a precise 


connection between the community's politics and the resilience they inspired in 
prisoners. The community also offered material support to the families of prisoners, as 
shown by Nael's account of how neighbors sheltered his family and helped rebuild their 
house after it was demolished by the Israelis. 

Just as the community provided support for those who fell victim to the 
Occupation, however, it also encouraged schoolchildren to participate in violence, thus 
putting them at risk for psychological trauma. Abed said that he threw stones "for two 
reasons, the social pressure and to fight the repression of the Occupation." He further 
explained, "The community played a central role in building resilience because of their 
support. Sometimes the social support was a motive for people to fight the Occupation." 
Thus, at the same time that the community built resilience, it helped to perpetuate the 
fighting. This illustrates Altawil's (2008) observation that the same sort of shared 
political commitment that fosters resilience can also increase stress and trauma within the 
community by prolonging the violence. 


All of the respondents valued education, and moreover had learned to value 
education from their families, regardless of whether they were born into an educated 
family. Aseel recalled how, "In my early childhood, my parents would teach me the 
importance of education and how one could achieve almost anything if one was 
sufficiently educated." At the same time, the respondents never spoke of education solely 
as an end in itself. Rather, it was "the only way to secure one's future," as Rania said. 


Indeed, as Hallaj (1980) observed, the importance of education for contemporary 
Palestinians is a direct consequence of political events that occurred in the middle of the 
20th century. The confiscation of Palestinian land in 1948 meant that education, not 
propertyholding and farming, would become the key to survival and advancement for 
both individuals and the Palestinian people. Ghadeer expressed a view held by many 
Palestinians when she claimed that the Nakba, "the catastrophe," happened because most 
Palestinians were not educated in 1948. Similarly, Abed asserted that "One of the goals 
of the occupation is to make kids leave their schools and to make Palestinians an 
uneducated population." Thus, pursuing an education is in and of itself an activity with 
political overtones and a demonstration of resistance. 

Recalling their years in primary school and high school, participants stressed how 
the political situation overlapped with or interfered with their educational experience 
during the first Intifada. When the fighting flared up, schools were closed, causing 
lengthy interruptions in their schooling. On the other hand, some participants emphasized 
that school itself became the setting for a political rather than a strictly academic 
education. Nael said, "In our school, we learned how to throw stones, how to struggle, 
how to resist, how to refuse the Occupation and we learned politics rather than ordinary 
subjects. That's how my friends and I studied." 

Looking back on the effects of the Intifada on the Palestinian educational system, 
Mahshi (2006) stated that "Education creates resistance by clarifying what the harmful 
effects of occupation are and by reinforcing the sense of community" (71). This sense 
that education is fundamental to political struggle was echoed by several of the 
participants. Ahmed and Abed both spoke of education as a tool that could be used to 


"fight the Occupation." Ghadeer added that "Knowledge and education are our only 
weapons against the Occupation." 

The arts as a source of resilience. 

The performing arts — music, paintings, dance, plays, poetry — are not among the 
favored topics for researchers in the field of trauma and resilience, at least not in the case 
of Palestine. The interviews, however, demonstrated that for those individuals who 
displayed a strong personal interest in the arts — Nael, Ahmed, Rania, and Aseel — they 
provided an invaluable source of support, comfort, and resilience. Just as the ideology of 
resistance and liberation infused the participants' views on family, community, and 
education, political concerns are woven throughout their artistic activities. 

In her photography, Rania sought to document contemporary life in the West 
Bank: "I took photos that reflected Palestinian lives." When she turned to filmmaking, 
she made a short film about her experience at Israeli checkpoints. She was proud that her 
photos and film were exhibited around the world, because they helped educate others 
about the situation in her homeland. She said, "When internationals watched my film, 
they said that it was very creative and that I could express the Palestinian's suffering 
through it." 

Music was another medium that could carry an ideological message. Aseel 
described how Dabka groups performed songs and dances about "the Palestinian nation 
and its liberation from the Israeli yoke." As a composer and a musician, Ahmed "tried to 
spread awareness about Palestinian culture through films and music. I believe that we 


[Palestinians] should fight to protect our culture and to show it to the whole world." Like 
Rania, Ahmed saw his art as a way of educating outsiders about the Palestinian situation. 

The roleplaying of theater also lent itself to political expression. Nael recalled 
how, as a child, he and his neighbors played "Israeli soldiers and Arabs," dramatically 
reenacting the activities of their older siblings. As they grew up, some of the participants 
began playing roles on stage. Nael himself acted in several plays, and later started a 
theater group at the community center, where he cast children in a "political play." Rania 
and her friends wrote and acted in several plays with political content. 

In sum, part of the success of the arts in generating resilience seems to lie in the 
fact that artistic expression allowed the participants to express political ideas as well as 
feelings. The participants were able to use their media as a way of reflecting on 
Palestinian identity and the crisis of the Occupation. Making art gave them the 
opportunity to interpret their experiences and place them in a larger framework. By 
performing music or plays or exhibiting photography or films, the participants could 
share their political beliefs with a wider audience, thus building community even as they 
nurtured their own resilience. 

Possible sources of resilience unmentioned by participants. 

In reviewing what the participants said about their personal sources of strength 
and resilience, it is also necessary to consider some possible sources of resilience that 
they did not name: team sports and religion. Sports activities offer young people 
opportunities to socialize, develop physical skills and strengths, demonstrate leadership 
and cooperation, and compete in a friendly and non-hostile manner. Playing sports is an 


opportunity for personal growth in several areas, and thus a potential pathway to building 
resilience. Meanwhile, researchers have argued that religious belief serves as a source of 
resilience because it gives believers a way to interpret and make sense of adverse events 
and traumatic experiences (Peres et al., 2007). Religion also brings people together in 
communities, creating social support networks that can foster resilience. The participants 
in this study, however, had little to say about either sports or religion. 

In a study of Palestinian youth aged 15-18, Nguyen-Gillham (2008) found that in 
addition to family and friends, sports activities were a source of resilience for boys, 
though not for girls; on the other hand, girls were more likely to develop resilience from 
artistic activities — reading, writing, or drawing — or from their education. Only one 
participant in the present study, Abed, referred to sports, and only in passing: he 
mentioned that the violence of the Intifada led to the cancellation of soccer games. None 
of the participants spoke explicitly about participating in team sports as a source of 
strength or resilience. 

Religion is a source of strength and comfort to many Palestinian refugees of all 
generations. According to Teeffelen (2005: 422), "a factor relevant to the cultural 
sumud — Steadfastness — of Palestinians is the importance of religion as a source of faith, 
spiritual commitment, guidance and consolation. . . . During uncertain and seemingly 
hopeless times, many persons and families consider faith as a beacon for spiritual 
orientation." Praying, going to the mosque, or attending religious classes are activities 
that provide people with comfort, hope, and the opportunity to socialize. Some Islamic 
organizations also offer material support and services (Farah, 2005, p. 116). Teeffelen et 
al. (2005) found in their study of Palestinian youth that several Christian and Muslim 


girls mentioned "as their inner source of strength the inspiring example of religious 
personalities" and, in this sense, "religion may well contribute to an inner, spiritual 
resilience" (p. 422). 

Despite the fact that religion plays a large role in the Palestinian community and 
that researchers have identified religious belief and practice as a source of resilience for 
Palestinians, the participants in this study barely mentioned religion. Two of the female 
participants Rania and Ghadeer practice Islam and wear a headscarf, but they did not 
discuss the place of religion in their lives. Two of the male participants Abed and Ahmed 
mentioned that they pray and have a good connection with religion, but they did not refer 
to religion as one of the resources they drew on for support. Mohammed mentioned that 
his father was a religious man: "He taught us the ethics of religion: Do not steal! Help 
others and be nice to others!" Thus, Mohammed spoke about religion as a source of 
values and ethical standards, but not as a source of personal strength. 

Implications of the Study 

There are currently many places on the planet where armed conflict disrupts daily 
life. The resources of centers for healing war victims are often overwhelmed. In order to 
reduce the strain on providers of psychological care, it makes sense to look for ways of 
preventing trauma by building resilience. The use of expressive arts therapy, along with 
promoting artistic activity in general, is one resource that has the capacity not only to heal 
but also to transform individuals, families, communities, and education systems. If 
artistic expression promotes resilience in individuals, as the interviews suggest, then 
using expressive arts therapy or encouraging children and youths to engage in activities 


like drawing, storytelling, or theater may build resilience in those who are at a high risk 
of suffering trauma from war-related violence. The role of the arts in developing 
resilience thus deserves more attention from researchers as well as educators. 

Increasing children's exposure to the arts, however, may require a committed 
institutional effort. Several of the respondents noted that their communities and schools 
did not encourage artistic activity. Abed said bluntly, "The people of Hebron do not 
believe in arts or music," while Rania related that people in the refugee camp where she 
grew up "would not pay any attention to the importance of the arts [because] people had 
more important responsibilities and duties to worry about." Art was not taught at Abed's 
school, while Rania said that art classes were on the schedule, but the school had no art 
teachers. Speaking about the children he worked with at the community center, Nael said, 
"There were no [artistic] activities in their schools or in their houses. In their houses, 
children faced social problems, and the streets were full of politics, and the school only 
cared about academic education. That led the children not to have any opportunity to be 

Increasing the role of the arts in primary and secondary school curricula may be a 
relatively low-cost and efficient way to inculcate resilience in children and adolescents. 
As the interviews make clear, Palestinians in general place a high value on education as a 
means of betterment and a source of strength and resilience. By integrating artistic 
activity into school curricula and reinforcing the connection between academic and 
artistic pursuits, it may be possible to alter the sentiment that artistic expression is not an 
important or essential part of life. Another venue for promoting artistic activity is the 
network of community centers in cities, towns, and refugee camps. Nael's experience at 


his community center suggests that the centers are an effective setting in which to 
encourage children and youths to express themselves. 

Studies suggest that the process of finding meaning in one's life and experiences 
promotes resilience (Altawil, 2008; Peres et al., 2007). Individuals who have an 
established belief system are better able to cope with adverse events or trauma because 
they have a framework in which to interpret it. Religion and political ideology are two 
types of belief systems that offer frameworks for interpreting and making sense of the 
events of one's life. Artistic expression is another process whereby individuals may 
reflect on, process, and interpret their experiences. Thus, encouraging artistic activity 
may promote the sort of meaning-making that is associated with belief systems, and thus 
help to develop resilience. Researchers point to the utility of expressive arts therapy as a 
way of encouraging children to verbalize their feelings, making it easier for a therapist to 
address the issues a child is facing (e.g., Synder 2007). This approach overlooks the 
possibility of a more direct relationship between artistic activity and resilience. 

Combining artistic activity with other sources of resilience may be particularly 
effective. Forms of artistic expression that involve social contact may be even more likely 
to promote resilience, because social support systems have also been found to promote 
resilience (e.g., Altawil, 2008). Thus, participating in a Dabka group may be a more 
effective way to build resilience than drawing or painting in isolation. In addition, the 
political overtones of preserving Palestinian cultural traditions may further contribute 
toward an individual's resilience. 

Participating in theater productions may be an especially effective way to promote 
resilience, because it combines artistic expression, social contact, and explicit political 


content. Aseel recalled that "By the time I was ten, I had taken part in a political play 
[Sarhan, Ya Sarhan, Let's Go to the Mountains, by Tawfiq Ziad]. That play played a big 
part in my life and some of the lines of the dialogues still resonate with me." Rania and 
her friends wrote and performed their own dramas. Describing her acting experience, 
Rania said, "I enjoyed playing the role of the strong Palestinian man who cared for his 
family, the young man who learned difficult lessons through life, and the young girl who 
strongly faced old culture, the university system, and the Occupation." By playing strong, 
resilient characters, individuals may develop similar traits in themselves, thus increasing 
their resilience. 

Limitations of the Present Study 

The present study drew on a small sample of participants, all of whom were adult 
Palestinians who had come to the U.S. to pursue graduate study. Thus, each participant 
was a highly educated individual who could be expected to place a high value on 
education as a source of personal strength. A wider variety of participants might have 
named different sources of strength and resilience. For example, a different group of 
participants may have been more likely to describe sports activities or religious belief as a 
source of support. 

Because the interviews took place in the U.S., cultural dislocation may have 
affected the participants' responses. It is possible that those respondents who mentioned 
religion, or whose manner of dress and headscarf indicated that they practiced Islam, 
would have spoken more directly about their religious experience in a different 


Suggestions for Further Research 

This study indicates that the connection between the arts and resilience in general 
deserves further research. One of the research projects I hope to complete in the future is 
a comparable study of the role of the arts in promoting resilience among children, 
adolescents and adults, a study that will be both quantitative and qualitative. In addition, 
as a way of taking stock of the resources currently available in Palestine for art education 
and art therapy, I hope to survey Palestinian schools to learn what kind of arts 
experiences they offer, and to determine what kind of skills Palestinian therapists have in 
using the arts in therapy, or as therapy. 

The participants in this study were relatively silent about their experiences with 
two expected sources of resilience, namely sports activities and religion. Thus, if this 
study were to be repeated, it might be useful to include some more specific interview 
questions to explore whether sources of resilience identified by researchers studying non- 
Palestinian populations are also present to the same degree among Palestinians. 

Another area to investigate is the relationship between gender and participation in 
the arts. Garbarino and Kostelny (1996) discussed some general differences between the 
ways boys and girls responded to the stresses of the first Intifada. Nguyen-Gillham et al. 
(2008) found that sports activities were a source of resilience for boys, though not for 
girls. Sources of resilience for girls tended to include reading, writing, and drawing; also, 
the pursuit of education was overall a greater source of resilience for girls. Determining 
how gender is related to participation in the arts may help educators in redesigning school 


Finally, because this study focused on the arts and resilience in the Palestinian 
population, and because sources of resilience may be culturally specific (Ungar et al., 
2007), it would be advantageous to conduct similar studies in other locations where 
children and youths are at risk of war-related trauma. Art education and art therapy may 
be effective ways of cultivating resilience among vulnerable children in populations 
around the world. 


There are currently many places on the planet where armed conflict disrupts daily 
life. In order to reduce the strain on providers of psychological care, it makes sense to 
look for ways of preventing trauma by building resilience. The use of art therapy in 
treating victims of trauma is well established, however, the role of artistic activity in 
building resilience to trauma has not been investigated. Based on interviews with seven 
Palestinian graduate students currently residing in the U.S., this study identifies some of 
the sources of resilience that the participants drew on while growing up in the Palestinian 
territories during the first Intifada (1987-1993), including family support and community 
support, education, and the role of the arts. The implication of this study indicate that the 
use of the expressive arts, along with promoting artistic activity in general, is one 
resource that has the capacity not only to help with healing but also to transform 
individuals, families, communities, and educational systems. Using expressive arts 
therapy and encouraging children and youths to engage in activities like drawing, 
storytelling, or theater can help build resilience in those who are at a high risk of 
suffering trauma from war-related violence. 


Appendix: Consent Form 

Consent Form 

The Role of the Arts in Healing Trauma and Building Resilience 
in the Palestinian Community 

I am conducting research on The Role of the Arts in Healing Trauma and Building 
Resilience in the Palestinian Community. I am investigating this because I am interested 
in knowing / exploring the role of the arts in the Palestinian community to heal trauma 
and build resilience. If you decide to do this, you will be asked to be interviewed for 90- 
120 minutes to talk about your life story. 

Taking part in this project is entirely up to you, and no one will hold it against you if you 
decide not to do it. If you take part, you may stop at any time. In addition, you may ask to 
have your data withdrawn from the study after the research has been conducted. 

If you want to know more about this research project, please contact me at (617-642- 
6890);; 220 Elm street, Cambridge, MA, 02139. This project has 
been approved by the Institutional Review Board at Lesley University. Information on 
Lesley University policy and procedure for research involving humans can be obtained 
from the Associate Provost ( 

You will get a copy of this consent form. 


Yousef Al Aj arma 
Ph.D. Candidate 
Expressive Therapies. 

Lesley University 

Consent Statement(s) 
I agree to audio taping at on 

Signature Date 

I have been told that I have the right to hear the audiotapes before they are used. 
I have decided that I: 

want to hear the tapes 

do not want to hear the tapes 


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